Early Voting - A President Waits His Turn
I have always heard it is better to be lucky than good. Today was one of those days. I had just finished writing yesterday's story about early voting problems and thought about where to go for some more intersting shots of Texans at the polls excercising their option of early voting. I started to head to a location I hadn't been to before, but decided instead to look at a comparrison between Monday and today at the Wirt Road Service Center. I actually missed the exit off I-10 and almost went on to another location, but an inner voice told me to take the next exit and go back. I still am learning to trust that inner voice.
When I arrived, I was pleased to see the parking lot was even more crowded than on Monday. I spoke with some campaign workers outside who told me there had been a solid stream of voters all day. Sounded like the numbers would be good for today as well, so I made my way into the voting area.
As you can see in the pictures, the lines were MUCH longer than Monday's line. I spoke with the election judge again advising her I would be taking photos and started snapping away. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. Something that grabbed a memory and made me look back again. There, in the midst of all of the chaos of voters wanting to make their way though the process sat a quiet, unassuming man patiently awaiting his turn to vote. That man, the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.
My mind jumped to several places at once. I remembered serving under him as an airman in the USAF while he was Vice President under Ronald Reagan. I remembered being at his VP re-election party in 1984 here in Houston. I remembered the dignity in which he carried out his job as President and a time when we could all respect the President, even if we didn't agree with him.
Yet here sat this man, a man who was used to being the center of activity, a man who others would wait to see and to hear, now sitting quietly while the room seemed to buzz around him. It seemed hardly anyone was even aware he was there. What peace that must be for him. And yet, I wonder if he misses the noise of the high paced world he used to lead.
Then came his turn (a friend had stood in line for him to help him out). He quietly rose and made his way to the registration table, just as you or I would. He presented his ID, signed the voter log, was given his code to operate his e-slate machine and off he went to vote.
While he was voting, I went outside and spoke with the Secret Service driver of Mr. Bush's car. Being a "reporter" I couldn't help but ask about the possibility of getting a brief soundbite as the former President came out. Of course, I knew that was a long shot on my part and I was told it would have to be arranged in advanced. Who knew in advance he was going to be there... I certainly didn't. So I sought my next best option and asked if I could just take pictures as he came out. The driver suggested a place for me to stand to take my pictures where I would not be misidentified as a potential threat by the other agents as the president exited the building.
Grateful for the opportunity of chance God had put before me, I waited for him to come out. Mr. Bush came out with a smile on his face from completing his civic obligation to vote for our public servants. As he rode off in his car, he waved at me. As a veteran, I saluted the former Commander-in-Chief. As a veteran, he returned my salute and went on his way to whatever it is former presidents do with their afternoons.
As for me... On to Ripley House to see what was happening there today and THAT, is yet another story. Thanks for indulging me this personal moment. I hope it gives you something to remember fondly as well.
Mr. President, thank you for your service to our nation. As a WWII veteran, former Harris County Republican Party Chairman, a US Congressman (in the seat now held by John Culberson), Ambassador to the United Nations under Richard Nixon, Chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate era, Chief US Liason Officer to the Peoples Republic of China under Gerald Ford, Director of the CIA also under Gerald Ford, Vice President of the United States under Ronald Reagan and finally the 41st President of the United States of America, I would say you have earnd your quiet moments and afternoons to do as you wish. And thank you for the memories as your friend Bob Hope used to say.