Rebecca Bell-Metereau (District 5) and fellow State Board of Education candidate Judy Jennings (District 10) rallied the party faithful at the annual Texas Democratic Women Retreat luncheon Saturday, where the guest of honor was Andrea White, spouse of Democratic gubernatorial candidate and ex Houston Mayor Bill White. A former real-estate attorney and author of books for children and young adults, Mrs. White struck us as a pretty interesting character herself: maybe one of those British PIs who calmly and logically pursue whatever task is required to solve the problem: climbing to the top of an out-of-commission ferris wheel in wintry Chernobyl, for instance, to make sure it would be a plausible scene for her novel Radiant Girl. Dressed noticeably more relaxed than your average politician’s wife in a summery full skirt, flamingo-pink wrap blouse, white cardigan, and metallic flats, White charmed the audience with what seemed like genuine awe at the amazing things that can happen when you’re pursuing your life’s passion (a somewhat impromptu book-signing in mainland China as the guest of Houston basketball star Yao Ming, for instance).
In a brief interview before lunch, White told the Current she would love to be a statewide advocate for encouraging kids to stay in school and pursue community college and university degrees — which we were glad to hear, with Current reporter Callie Enlow’s story about San Antonio’s truancy problem fresh on our mind `see “Last ditch effort,” July 28`. As Houston’s first lady, White founded a community-outreach program called We’re All Neighbors, which addressed dropout rates, among other issues, and with her husband created Expectation Graduation, which grew out of a summit she hosted in 2004.
“It’s kind of like Don’t Mess With Texas, when you got that message out at the highest levels, changing the culture so that you don’t litter. Well, change the culture so that dropping out is serious,” she said. “People do it casually, without thought to the fact that it’s going to have consequences inter-generationally. So if you can make it a big deal I think you can make some strides.”
Asked if she thought Bill White’s legacy is misrepresented outside of Houston, she replied, “Elsewhere a lot of people have never heard of him, so there’s a gap. In Houston, everyone knows Bill. So it’s more the introduction to him.” His finest moment in office? “The disasters, he was amazing. Just the way he brought people together,” business, religious institutions, ordinary folk … “and we were on one team.”