Christian Archibald Herter, who lived from 1898 to 1967, was Governor of the state of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957. This is a story he told on himself.
I heard a version of it in a sermon in the 1980’s from a dear Anglican priest, Fr. David Schofield, who used it to illustrate how important it is for us to know who we are. Although I remembered the story vividly, I wanted to be sure I had the Governor's name right. When I checked it out on the internet I found the tale has been repeatedly used to make many points, but I think it hardly needs any amplification to be of great value. Here it is as I remember it.
Christian Herter, a graduate of Harvard and the governor of Massachusetts mid 1950’s was seeking re-election. He was having one of those really hard days on the campaign trail. He had spoken at a morning breakfast meeting where he had no more than a cup of coffee while his listeners ate. He had then skipped lunch altogether to meet other duties, consoling himself that his last scheduled event on the trail was at a church barbecue. He arrived a bit late and was relieved to see food was still being served. The Governor was really hungry. The queue was quite long but he resisted the temptation to be recognized for special treatment and stood at the end of the line. The day was coming to a close, he was tired, he was hungry and everything smelled so good. As he moved down the serving line he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said. “Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m so hungry, I haven’t had a bite all day.”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one piece to a customer.”
Governor Herter thought of himself as a modest and unassuming man but he suddenly decided to throw his weight around just a little bit. He pulled himself up to his full height and asked the woman behind the platter of barbecued chicken, “Excuse me, but do you know who I am?”
“Why, yes, Governor, sir, I do. Do you know who I am?” she replied.
Governor Herter had to confess that he didn’t have any idea who the lady was.
“Well, I’m the chicken lady, and it's one piece per person. Now please, sir, kindly move along.”