I’ve been blessed! Over the decades of making photographs, some assignments simply have been magic.
Ten years ago this spring, I traveled for a week, recording Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm’s Tourism Tour of Michigan. It was quite a trip in our vast State. On the first day, she started out kayaking in the frigid and foggy waters of Lake Superior, near Houghton.
Then, eastward across the UP, with a stop in Marquette.
On Tuesday, Day Two of the swing, included crossing the Straits of Mackinac and toward Alpena. As her tour bus pulled up, the scene was right out of Hollywood…the brass band was on the steps of the Old Federal Building in downtown Alpena.
After welcoming remarks, The Governor was lead indoors to tour the conversion of the one-time Federal Building to the new Alpena DNR Fisheries Resources Office and Maritime Museum.
Inside, the museum was filled with all sorts of Maritime history, lore and artifacts.
The museum was well staffed to bring her up to date with the progress, and she listened intently, even though she was running behind schedule and a receiving line and lunch were waiting for her on the waterside of the museum building.
When the Governor did make it out the back door, there was the press, waiting for interviews, again delaying lunch.
I cannot recall the large bru-ha-ha that was happening in Lansing, as the Governor was out on the road, but it was serious enough that there was talk of cancelling the rest of the week’s tour and her rushing back to Lansing. The press was relentless and she handled every question with poise and grace and patience….after-all, lunch was waiting under the big tent.
It seemed like an hour under the hot spring sun before the questions and answers stopped.
The Governor left the interviews and started for the lunch tent. Still taking questions and on to the patient receiving line. When you are Governor, everyone wants to have a chat with you.
Still without lunch and running way behind schedule, there were people waiting to shake her hand. She was a very popular and charismatic leader…even rooting for the Detroit Pistons as they were in an exciting NBA Playoff game that coming evening. It was breezy and hot for a spring day in Michigan.
The Governor did her best to stay calm and cool. At the end of a long receiving line, stood a young mother holding her camera in one hand and her son in the other. She had waited at the end of the line for the moment with the Governor of Michigan. The mother politely asked if she could spare a a few seconds of her time to pose with her son. The Governor looked straight in the mother’s eyes and asked, “Do you have a book?”, while eyeing the young boy. Nervously and frantically, the mother pawed through her “boy bag” and produced one of her son’s books. The Governor didn’t take one step. She sat straight down on the parking lot curb and put the boy right next to her.
Page by page, the Governor asked the boy what the animal did or said.
For five minutes, she sat on the parking lot curb, reading and engaged with this young boy. Everyone else in attendance was under the tent eating, oblivious to their guest of honor, out sitting on a curb, giving her full attention to this young boy. His mother was getting the photos of a lifetime. I just kept my distance, almost in tears at the wonderful scene playing out in front of me.
Finally the book was finished and closed. A lesson of humility, grace and priorities swept over me and the memory of that spring day in Alpena has stuck with me as a witness to greatness. This is how true leaders are remembered, through acts of genuine kindness.
I’m not certain if she ever did get lunch that day…the bus was waiting and there were more cities on the schedule. The tour did continue on it’s around-the-state tour and ended up almost 1000 miles from where it began….
Thank you Governor Jennifer Granholm!
You have some very fortunate children and you left your gracious act of kindness and love tattooed on my heart and in my memories and photographs forever. -JRW