Helping Someone Remove A Stump, while on the campaign...
It has been said that our character is what we do when we think no one is looking...no press there...
Mitt had come to work and to serve. If America decides to offer Mitt Romney the privilege of being
president, I know we’ll be getting a man character; one that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.
HELPING WITH THE STUMP
I will never forget the fires of October 2007. That year unusually hot, dry, Santa Ana winds wreaked havoc in Southern California. Gusts touching 85 mph carried ash and cinders for miles seemingly touching off a new fire every day. Entire cities became ghost towns with an estimated 1,000,000 people being forced to evacuate (myself included).
When all was said and done, over a thousand homes had burned to the ground and billions in damage had been done. While my house had been spared, the homes of many friends and neighbors had been burned or damaged and the entire region embarked on a massive clean-up effort.
About this time, the national GOP nominating contest was heating up and Mitt Romney was among the front runners. Mitt was coming to San Diego for some political events and wanted to get a better sense of the damage. His son, Matt Romney, invited Mitt to participate in an early morning service project at the house of a friend. Our friend had lost a giant pine tree to the fires (thanks to firefighters his home had miraculously been spared). The tree had been cut and hauled away but a giant stump dominated a pocket of earth in his front yard. Our friend needed help digging it out.
Mitt arrived bright and early in sneakers, jeans, and an old cotton shirt. He surveyed the stump and a wry smile crept across his face. I sensed this was not the first foray in stump removal and he knew (far better than I did) the scope of what we were trying to accomplish that morning. The tree had matured and closer inspection revealed a complicated labyrinth of large roots compacted by the surrounding cement sidewalks.
Armed with chainsaws and axes we went to work. Our progress was difficult to measure. The moist sappy wood and surrounding earth quickly dulled our chainsaws. I found myself questioning our effort and wondering if we were making any progress at all. After burning out three chainsaws my resolve was weakening and I was ready to hang it up, but not Mitt. It was time for the ax. After several hours it was time for me to go to work and time for him to return to the campaign trail. The stump remained but, surprisingly, we had made tremendous progress. Thanks a timely visit from a neighboring backhoe the stump was out by lunchtime (much to the joy of our friend who figured it would take days to remove).
There are several things I remember about this day. I remember Mitt’s focus and work ethic. Our friend bought us breakfast burritos, but Mitt politely declined citing his desire to, “..make some progress first.” I remember moments of ingenuity (Mitt used a crowbar to pry apart cuts in the wood helping our dull chainsaws be more effective). I remember the look on a neighbors face as they passed by walking their dog. Was that really Governor Mitt Romney chopping at his neighbors stump?
For me the morning was a microcosm of what I envision a Mitt Romney presidency would be like. Every morning showing up early and ready to work, quickly assessing the challenges of the day, tackling them head on with a heavy dose of hard work and ingenuity, and leavings things in much better shape than he found them.
It has been said that our character is what we do when we think no one is looking. Notably, on this morning there were no bright lights or press corp. And as the prolific sweat on his cotton shirt would attest to, this was no token visit to merely score political points. Mitt had come to work and to serve. If America decides to offer Mitt Romney the privilege of being president, I know we’ll be getting a man character; one that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.