The First Day….

The Mesquite News
Thursday, July 23, 1992

By PAUL L. WHITE

Wind rippled the surface of the water as I sat and watched through the large window 11 stories high, looking toward a man-made pond so eloquently set near a tall business building in grassy slopes.  This was the very first day in the life of the Ross Perot petition committee, and the phones were somewhat quiet.  News of Mr. Perot's availability to the presidency was very recent, and though there had been 1000 calls received during the earlier part of the day, this was the afternoon and evening, and things were now a little at rest.

And that was good, for it left me time to talk to the girl sitting next to me. She was so beautiful, and full of hope and promise. As a young law student, this was her opportunity to experience firsthand what this country is made of, and the very core of what our legal system is about -- government, "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

We took a few calls, phoned a few citizens who'd contacted the Perot business enterprise and left messages, and simply spoke to one another while watching the orange and red of the sunset, and then the glowing lights of night. A cameraman came in and made a new memory for television. My partner asked if I wasn't nervous, being taped while speaking on the phone, and I responded, "No."

I felt, even then, that this whole moment was a part of history somehow. But, never could I have known, and never could we have known, just what kind of avalanche would so soon follow this calm. We stood at a beautiful door for history, and just how wide it would swing open was not for us to say. It was for the American people to decide.  We were simply responders, awaiting the voice of the people.  Ours was just to salute and obey.  Never could we have imagined what the people would eventually command.

History. It's a wonderful word, in my view, meaning, originally, web, or weave, of a sail. And, oh, Mr. Perot, what a beautiful web and collection of accomplishments you have woven for us!  What a list of practices you have so faithfully produced in years past to show us who and what you are, and how you would handle the challenges of presidency.

You  were  not campaigning then, nor were you mugging for the cameras, hoping to get our vote. You were simply being who and what you are. And now, you are gone!

But every call I receive this night, the first night, and every voice that I hear applauds those things in you, the who and the what. They love you, these American people. They love your courage, your compassion, your insistence on "doing it right." They want a servant, a leader who will serve them well, in the government -- our government.

Memories! There are so many of having worked for you. But the one I most cherish is, again, unrehearsed, unpolished, and unplanned. Back in the first few weeks of our effort, I left the office early with an armful of petitions and other papers for Art Greenhaw,  who  had  just volunteered his store as the first Mesquite satellite office. I jumped onto the elevator, and, there you were with Morley Safer.

I was stunned, but you weren't. As the elevator doors closed behind me, you stuck out your hand and said, "Hi, I'm Ross Perot." No cameras were rolling, no crowds were watching, and I was no one to impress.

You introduced me to Mr. Safer, "your Friend," then asked, "How are things going up there?" Your eyes were so full of interest, and earnestly wanting to know. In my nervousness, I  mumbled something about "We're setting up a  satellite  office  in  Mesquite." That'll impress him, I thought.

Then, as I walked away from that meeting, so brief and so full of love, I abruptly could not move for the deed that I had done.  In all  of your wealth, success and sudden popularity, you had never tried to impress anyone. And, in my small deed, I thought I could impress you.

Oh, Mr. Perot, how deeply I love you!  How deeply I miss traveling to North Dallas each weekday to work for your cause. How I miss typing those issues, reading those letters, and responding to those vendors. How I miss being a servant of the people, in your name.

The phone rings again on this, our first day as the Perot petition committee. In no way can I know the joy and the sorrow to come. In my conversation with the caller, their voice is enthusiastic.

Oh, Mr. Perot, I will carry that enthusiasm in my soul for the rest of my days. I will always seek to be like you -- adventuresome, effective, and truthful.  And no matter what my hands find to do, they will remember the gentleness and the love in that handshake.

Paul L. White is a Mesquite resident who volunteered on the petition committee for Ross Perot.

Reprinted  by permission of the Mesquite News