Sunday, January 16, 2005

I see my President is being inaugurated this week ...

for the second time, that is. The second has been far more satisfying than the first, and it has caused me to reflect upon where it all began … here in Texas. I love him now, but I recall I time when I just liked him.

I went to a luncheon/fundraiser for a Harris County judge in the fall of 1995. They let little fish into that one, so I was there. There were at least 500 people who attended that day, and our first-term governor was set to speak. He had come to Houston to campaign for Judge Dwight Jefferson, who at the time was the only black judge in Harris County. Then-Governor Bush had appointed Judge Jefferson to fill a court vacancy, and the word was out that Judge Jefferson might draw an opponent in the upcoming election for the full term. Our governor, though, felt pretty strongly about Judge Jefferson, and he made a special trip to town for the fundraiser, to, as he put it, serve notice to any would-be opponents of Judge Jefferson that he would be on the campaign trail with the judge, if necessary.

At the time, I honestly did not know a lot about our governor. I had voted for him. This was easy, though, because his opponent was Ann Richards, a woman who represents the stereotypes of Texas far more than the state’s heart. I liked Gov. Bush, and he seemed like a good guy. However, it didn’t appear to me like a lot was happening. At least, there wasn’t a lot of discussion in the media, press conferences and the like.

At this judicial fundraiser, Gov. Bush spoke, appropriately enough, about judicial reform. He appeared to use no notes, and he effectively railed against the damage done not just to business but to average, hard-working people by a legal system run amok. He gave lawyers the business, so to speak, but in a respectful way. I liked it. I love it when lawyers get it. I know he had to have given the speech many times before, but it was still impressive.

The governor finished, and we resumed eating lunch. After a few minutes, I looked up and saw him talking to some people on the other side of the room. He seemed at ease. I watched him, and I swear it looked like he knew every one there but me. Later, he was a few tables over, and I wondered to myself, “Is he meeting every one in this room?” There was at least 500 of us, and it would take forever. But that was exactly what he was doing.

About 45 minutes or so later, the governor and some guy who I think was named Rove wound their way around to our table. I got up to shake his hand, and he looked at me with the look of a man on a mission. He had a penetrating look of honesty, of a man going to a specific destination. Rove introduced him to me, and then he just simply said, “Rick, thank you for being here and supporting my friend, Judge Jefferson. I really appreciate it.” I said, well, I don’t remember what I said, but I am sure it was eloquent.

We finished lunch and I watched him finish the rounds. I leaned over and spoke to the fellow next to me, and I said, “You know, I think this guy is going places.”

It turns out that Judge Jefferson didn’t get an opponent, after all. And Gov. Bush cut a wide swath through Texas politics. The Texas Democratic Party is still reeling and will probably never recover, at least not in my lifetime. Gov. Bush said he would do certain things ... he was passionate about education, tax reform, seeking real opportunites for minorities, legal reform, working with Democrats, knocking down artificial walls that kept private and religious insitutions from meeting needs. He tried bold things and did what he said he would do. He acted as a man with "a charge to keep", a mission. He doggedly pursued and ultimately made significant inroads into the hispanic community. He made friends and supporters of prominent Democrats, even the state's most-prominent one, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who ultimately even campaigned for him. Sound familiar?

When I heard Pres. Bush's victory speech on Nov. 3, I got a little emotional because this predictable man surprised me when he thanked us ... his many friends in the great state of Texas. It is hard to overstate the degree of love and loyalty that many of us here feel for the President.

And on Nov. 3, he promised that when his term as our 43rd President is over, he will return home to Texas, where it all began. I look forward to that some day, because I know that he will do exactly what he has said.

In the meantime, we will sit, watch, pray for him and smile as he very unsurprisingly does exactly what he has said he would do in his second term. Jihadis and leftists quake. The U.S. military, conservatives, and many other people of goodwill rejoice.

God bless President George W. Bush.