So I didn't see George W. Bush Friday. I saw the chopper he was in pass over us (I swear I thought they were going to take out our live van's mast), but the images I got of the man himself were from the same source for so many locally and globally, KBTX and KBTX.com.
As the News 3 crew in the field packed in to our van to watch the address, I think what struck me and others was how comfortable the president seemed. I think there's bipartisan agreement that this commander-in-chief's communication hasn't rivaled Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan or Clinton (who can?), but in an A&M address, he found a comfort zone in the heart of his home state.
Mr. Bush delivered his speech with only the slightest of hiccups that the media often latches on to and harps on for hours and days. He was crisp, clear, concise and seemingly better off without the crutch of a teleprompter. If you watch the speech back, look for the flair with which he turns the pages as he goes. He gained confidence with each flip.
The man was having fun up there. Cracking jokes about the grey hair genes he believes he got from Mom. Wishing he had Reveille and her "one bark ends class" rule during White Hosue press conferences. Saying he felt a kinship with the students who don't know what comes next in life.
This country's leader, a man who the polls place deep in the national "unpopular" category, found a corner of the country where everything he said was greeted with smiles and whoops. Maybe bailouts and war not being brought up had something to do with that. Maybe in a red state, admiration for this leader is a shade deeper here. Or maybe some graduating students and their couple of guests simply fell comfortably into the aura of a historic figure's presence. It's probably some or all of the above.
Most touching to me, above the noteworthy tales of courage and the Aggie anecdotes, was the moment he addressed his dad near the end.
From the transcript: "He reached the pinnacle in government, but he defines his life by other roles -- a father who gave unconditional love, a grandfather devoted to his grandchildren, and a beloved husband of the sweetheart he married a lifetime ago. Some of you will leave A&M with a degree that carries this good man's name -- George Bush. I have been blessed and honored to have carried it for 62 years."
That's family admiration, an emotion not exclusive to those with famous names. But in this case, the admiration comes with historic images on a noteworthy day in Aggieland, one thousands inside Reed Arena -- and a few folks crammed into a live van -- won't soon forget.
Thank you for counting on News 3 when it comes to events like this. It's an honor to be a part of them in some small way.