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tobacco bad!
Daniel Esch's blog
Friday, April 21, 2006


The teaser photo

Because I wouldn’t believe me if I were you.

press pass

Photos will be posted by Sunday.


Superultramegapost: Photographing POTUS

When the photo editor called me and asked if I could cover the president, I assumed he was talking about the president of the university.

He wasn’t.

George W. Bush

He didn’t mention that there would be another big star there. I’m speaking, of course, of Cisco Systems president and CEO John Chambers.

George W. Bush and John Chambers

John Chambers of Cisco Systems, right, agrees with President Bush’s assertion that the growth of the Internet has helped Cisco “a little bit.”

One last surprise for me: The Governator.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger laughs as President George W. Bush cracks jokes about the two politicians’ college educations.

The president was in town to promote the American Competitiveness Initiative, a package of legislation aimed at keeping the US a major player in high tech. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, mainly because I was busy trying to not screw up a major opportunity. Fortunately, I’m a photographer, not a reporter.


Participants in Friday’s panel discussion included, from left, SJSU student Arash Shokouh, Foothill College president Dr. Bernadine Chuck Fong, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President George W. Bush and Cisco Systems president and CEO John Chambers.

The managing editor of the Spartan Daily, another photographer and I allowed an absurd amount of time to get to the event, and that turned out to be a really good thing. Road closures and mixed signals among the traffic control people meant lots of back and forth and circling around, first in the car and then on foot.

Once we picked up our credentials, dropped off our camera gear for inspection, passed through the metal detector and picked up our gear inside, I staked out a spot on the risers set up at the back of the room for journalists while my colleague opted to shoot from the audience. Space on the risers was limited, so I was obliged to stay in my spot if I wanted to keep it.

So I waited.

For the next two hours or so, I sat, stood, stretched, and chatted a little with the other photographers. To my left was Robert Durell of the Los Angeles Times. To my right, Christina Koci Hernandez of the San Francisco Chronicle, whose work I’ve long admired. Behind me were the AP’s Paul Sakuma and Shmuel Thaler of the the Santa Cruz Sentinel — in other words, photographers I’m familiar with, not because I go to school with them but because they work.

Before I knew it, and actually ahead of schedule, things began to happen. Lights came on. A medley of patriotic tunes played softly. Well-dressed Secret Service men staked out their corners. Four unfamous people took their seats at the table before the giant backdrop. A crush of photographers traveling with the president flowed into the space between the table and the audience, and then came three introductions: John Chambers. The Governor of California. And the President of the United States.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger greets President George W. Bush on Friday at a panel discussion in San Jose.

The event lasted a little more than an hour, during which time I took an awful lot of pictures. I’ll say this for our president: He’s pretty animated and entertaining to watch up close. I was amazed to realize how familiar his body language has become.

George W. Bush George W. Bush George W. Bush George W. Bush

I’ll also say this for the president: He was eerily likable. It was a little weird, but there was nothing to dislike about the man. He seemed genuine and was relatively funny. He didn’t mispronounce words or say anything dumb. Another photographer told me that Arnold would steal the show with his star power, but I didn’t find that to be the case, as the president had charisma to spare.

George W. Bush

President George W. Bush speaks with members of the audience after a Friday appearance at the San Jose headquarters of Cisco Systems.

All in all, it was an interesting and exciting day. I’m glad, and still somewhat incredulous, that I had the opportunity to photograph such an internationally famous, significant and symbolic person.

And I now know that the president writes with a fat Sharpie marker with his signature on the barrel. You just can’t buy experience like that.

George W. Bush