I took my wife to the airport on Sunday. She’s spending the week working at the USA Track and Field National Championships in Eugene, OR. She’s worked with USATF for years as event staff, she’s on the Junior’s Commission and has served as USA National Junior’s Coach. I’m so proud of her. Whether she’s teaching here in Houston, or working with elite athletes, she makes a positive impact on everyone around her.
After I left the airport, I drove to Ruston, LA, home of my college alma mater, Louisiana Tech University. The Peach Festival started on Monday and I was invited to sing at a kickoff lunch event.
Former President George W. Bush was the guest speaker for the group of about 250 people.
It was fascinating to watch the event unfold. Secret Service everywhere, Louisiana State Police and local law enforcement . . . everywhere! Helicopters, sunglasses, tiny microphones.
The President played golf on the Squire Creek golf course that morning and came into the room to speak around 1 PM.
I arrived early with my friends, the Bradfords, just to get a lay of the land, set up the few things and do a quick sound check. None of this took place until the Secret Service had done a thorough investigation into my guitar case and bag. “What are these?” “Protein bars, sir.”
All Clear. Whew.
Then, I just sat and watched the energy build.
To sit off to the side of the platform and hear that voice and see the man that was in the White House, leading the most powerful nation in the world was really something.
He was very much at ease and talked about the White House, his presidency and told stories from his book, “Decision Points.”
By the way, a good read. TV and TV news gives us such short, cleverly edited soundbites, that it’s impossible to know what really goes on in the background of the halls of government. The book brings some clarity to lots of major events that took place during the presidency of Bush 43.
When his speech was over, I was introduced to sing “God Bless America.” All kinds of thoughts go through your head. “No, don’t say that. Just play your little song and be done.” “No, wait, he’s sitting ten feet from me. Shouldn’t I personalize this somehow?”
No . . . just sing your song and step off!!”
Well, I sang the verse “While the storm clouds gather . . .” then sang the first chorus by myself. After the chorus was over I just kept picking for a few measures. “Oh no” I could hear someone thinking, “What’s he going to do? What’s he gonna say???”
“I don’t know about you all, but I was always thankful to hear our president conclude every speech with the words “God Bless America” . . . . and Mean It!”
The crowd cheered and then, I invited them to join me. They were bursting to sing that last chorus and sing it they did.
Afterwards, we were all “asked” to remain in our places while the President left the room.
And that was that.
I have to tell ya, I was reluctant to tell this story. Everything was pretty much on the QT, no photographs, “don’t approach the President” etc, etc. But I wanted to share this with you all and tell you again, how thankful I am to still have the opportunities to sing and do what God has given me to do!
Thanks for your prayers. Hope to see you on the road somewhere soon.