LITTLE ROCK - As I was leaving the capitol one afternoon last week, I noticed a flash of color and activity out of the corner of my eye. When I turned, I saw Stacey Tatera and Lynn Brooks applying bright-red lipstick to six school kids in candy-cane vests and Santa hats.
They were standing in the tunnel, just outside the doors. As I walked toward the kids, a couple of them recognized me and greeted me by my first name, which is just fine by me. "Asa" is much easier for deaf children to sign than "governor" or "Hutchinson."
I was delighted to see these students from the Arkansas School for the Deaf. They are members of the school’s legendary Singing Fingers group, which was founded more than 40 years ago. Four in the current lineup had already performed at the capitol this year. Last week, the Singing Fingers was one of dozens of school choirs that performed in the Sounds of the Season program.
Stacey and Lynn, who direct the Singing Fingers, assured me the singers had time to pose with me for a picture before they went up the stairs to the second-floor rotunda for their performance of “Jingle Bells,” “Christmas Time in Arkansas,” “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.”
I love my job as governor of Arkansas, and moments like my unexpected visit with Ananda, Angel, Braden, Danielle, Egypt and Lola make it all the better. These serendipitous meetings are an added blessing.
These unscheduled encounters brighten my days, enlighten me and entertain me, although some are downright humbling, such as the encounter recently with a man who shook my hand and asked, “What are you doing these days?” His wife responded, “Honey, this is the governor of Arkansas.” He obviously had a lot on his mind.
Most importantly, the people I meet between my official engagements remind me why I wanted this job in the first place. For all the importance we place on our work as elected officials, most people don’t spend much time inside the capitol and city hall. In George Bailey’s great speech to Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, George reminded the bitter old banker that he should be looking out for the best interests of his customers. Those are the people who “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” His words are a timely reminder that regardless of all that we attempt as elected officials, that our most important work is the work we achieve for the good of all Arkansans.
To be a native of Arkansas is a gift. My job and the chance to serve my fellow Arkansans as their governor is a gift. The hundreds of people I meet as governor of my home state are gifts, as well. And some days, the gifts come wrapped in red-striped candy-cane vests and Santa hats and greet me just like the beautiful children from the School for the Deaf.