“Funny, you do not look like a Republican,” the young white man said, looking up at this black woman laden with boxes of lei, pineapple and Hawaiian Host candies, as only people of Hawaii are when visiting.

“I’m not,” I said, reaching out to hand him my invitation to the U.S. Capitol.

I took a deep breath and tried my best not to laugh. He blushed, turning beet red, all the while fumbling with the check-in list and attempting to pull back his words.

In those days, Republican electors were not African-Americans, Latinos and Asians.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush sit alongside Laura Bush at the Dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.

Flickr: George W. Bush Presidential Center

On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December — Dec. 19, 1988 — the electors met in their respective state capitols to cast their votes for president and vice president of the United States. I was one of the four Democratic electors of Hawaii.

The 1988 race against Democrat Michael Dukakis was notoriously ugly, especially because of a series of “Willie Horton” ads. Dukakis won the election in Hawaii with a solid 10 point landslide. However, the election results in Hawaii stood out from the rest of the United States in that election. Vice President George H. W. Bush, the Republican, won.

As a rule presidential electors, part of the Electoral College, do not attend the inaugural of an incoming United States president, especially one of a different party. However, I received an invitation. Even if the Democratic candidate did not win, I wanted to go.

Borrowed Fur Coat

Hawaii Gov. John Waihee assisted in gathering lei, pineapple and Hawaiian Host candies as gifts to the new president. And off I went, facing the January cold in a borrowed fur coat.

The Capitol security guard who had been watching the exchange between the young greeter and me was having trouble wiping the grin off his face as he lifted the boxes, and off we went to the office of the outgoing Vice President Bush, who had an office in the Capitol Building, just outside the Senate chamber.

George Herbert Walker Bush was as gracious and warm as a long-lost friend.

“Mr. President-elect, this young lady came all of the way from Hawaii to see you,” the security guard said, handing him the gifts.

“Hello, please excuse the confusion — movers are transferring me out of this office and into the White House,” he said.

Much to my surprise, George Herbert Walker Bush was as gracious and warm as a long-lost friend. This was not the man I expected, as we had fought so hard against him during the presidential campaign.

“I love the people of Hawaii,” he said. “They are so warm and welcoming. Please be seated, tell me why you are here.”

I do not know if we spent a few minutes or hours together — being with Vice President Bush was so comfortable. (He would not become president until the next day.)

He showed me a few pictures which were left from the movers. He became emotional talking about how his first visit to Hawaii was as a result of being shot down by Japanese fighter bombers and being plucked out of the ocean by a submarine while in the Navy during World War II. I told him my husband served 20 years on submarines. We were now kindred souls.

As a parting gift he gave me a copy of the inaugural edition of “President Bush’s Point of View,” a collection of quotes of his vision for the coming administration.

It’s a book I have treasured all of these years.

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