Here in Colorado Springs, President Bush has often made private visits with family members of soldiers killed in Iraq. What’s most reported by the families is how genuine he is, and how he takes the time to listen, really listen and that he’ll take the time to meet with each family member individually. While most military families support the President and back their loved ones for volunteering to be members of the Armed Forces, even President Bush’s few detractors in the military community have stated that he is sincerely interested in hearing their point of view, even when they blame him for their loved one’s deaths, and that he’ll feel their sorrow to the point where he sheds authentic tears of his own, which takes the family members by surprise, but not one of them has stated him to be phony or unmoved, just the contrary.
I met the President’s nephew, George P. Bush in September of 2004 and was impressed that he was so easy to talk to, and matter-of-fact like his Uncle, and when pressed for time, he and his wife, Amanda, stayed to talk.
After George P. Bush left, a woman told me that she had been to her son’s 2004 graduation from the Air Force Academy and that what impressed her, and so many other’s is that the President, not being obliged to, shook each graduate’s hand, and returned many excited hugs, when it was only expected that he would shake the first few hands because of the sheer number or graduates.
The personal stories are the ones that move me and I’ve decided to share some that I’ve asked permission to post.
1. I live about ten minutes from Ellington Field, where Air Force One always lands when the President comes to Houston. Recently, President Bush was here for the memorial service of the fallen astronauts of the Columbia tragedy. My sister, who lives even closer to Ellington, decided to go out and greet him as his motorcade passed. They were on a narrow street, very close to the curb, when his limousine passed. President Bush made a point to lean over his wife’s lap to wave at my five year old nephew.
Now you may not think this is such a special thing to do. He just waved, right? Let me tell you another story.
Six years ago, Clinton came to town and landed at Ellington. Not only did he not wave or even acknowledge the people who came to greet him, his limo had tinted windows so you couldn’t even see him.
Clinton liked to portray himself as “one of us,” but his behavior said something else. President Bush is a man of his word. He doesn’t deny his silver spoon upbringing, yet he is very down to earth. I really admire that about him.
2. Here’s a story that demonstrates the remarkable character of GWB. In his new book about the Green Berets (The Hunt for Bin Laden which is excellent by the way), Robin Moore tells the story of how the President and First Lady, whenever they get a break in their busy schedules, will drop in unannounced at Walter Reed Army Hospital and visit the troops wounded in battle. No press, no cameras; just the President and First Lady one on one with the wounded heroes. On one such visit, the First Lady ran into the wife of an injured soldier. She walked right up to her and gave her a great big hug.
This doesn’t get reported in the Press but the soldiers hear these stories via word of mouth. Several times Moore mentions how happy the soldiers are to finally have a Commander in Chief that they can respect.
3. I have a personal Bush story that goes back to 1988. I was working for a US Congressman in North Texas and it was campaign season. George W. Bush was in town and stopped by our office with one of his friends. We had just moved to a bigger office. My female co-worker and I were trying to move a very heavy desk when GWB came in. Without hesitation, GWB and his friend took off their jackets, grabbed the desk and asked us where it needed to go. The thing that so impressed me was that these gentlemen didn’t think twice about offering their help. I found GWB to be charming, funny, and down to earth. When I referred to him as Mr. Bush, he said “I’m just George.” I had no idea I was meeting with a future Governor of Texas and United States President.
4. In Texas, we’ve always liked the Bush family. I personally think Barbara Bush was one of the finest First Ladies in our history.
One day while shopping here in Dallas, I ran into George W. Bush in the supermarket. He and I were having the same problem finding some steaks for grilling.
He and the butcher knew each other on a first name basis, and George W. thanked him for taking the time to trim some fat off of the meat he selected, and then thanked him for some tips on managing the Texas Rangers baseball teamÃ¢Â?Â¦and gave him four passes for his wife and two sons.
In an instant, I realized that here was a very real person who truly is “one of us.”
5. One of my favorite stories of President Bush is the one where he visited the Army officer who was in the hospital. The soldier saw President Bush, tried his hardest to salute, and the president held his salute until the soldier put his arm down; very thoughtful and admirable.
6. My story goes back to 1990 and GHW Bush. My oldest son, then 2, was at the White House with my in-laws for the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. Andy wasn’t feeling well.
My mother-in-law, who has an amazing ability to find television cameras and get my children in front of them, noticed the secret service agents begin to congregate in one area. She scooped Andy up out of his stroller and found the prime location to spot the President as he walked out of the White House. As he passed by, she called out, “Mr. President, this is Andy.”
Mr. Bush stopped, turned, and walked toward her. He reached his hand out and brushed it across Andy’s cheek. “Hello, Andy. You look like you’re feeling a little under the weather.” Then, Bush kissed Andy on the forehead, held his hand and said, “I hope you get better soon, little man.” It seems the down-to-earth caring runs in the Bush family.
7. On Special Report with Brit Hume, they showed President Bush and the First Lady on their way to Marine One to leave for Camp David for the weekend.
As the video starts, the First Lady is leading the way into the helicopter with one dog on the leash, and the President is right behind her with the other dog. As the First Lady entered the chopper, the Marine at the gangway saluted and held his salute. The dog the President was walking decided he wanted to squat right when he got to steps. The President pulled on his leash, but the stubborn dog persisted in squatting. The President bent down and scooped up the pooch and entered Marine One. After he entered the Marine cut his salute and returned to the position of attention.
Moments later the President reemerged from the helicopter and out onto the steps. The Marine was standing at attention, head and eyes straight ahead. The President leaned over and tapped him on the left arm. The startled Marine turned his body toward the President and received his returned salute!
I was so impressed by this true act of respect for our military people by our President! He really does get it. Most any other person of his stature would have just continued his journey, disregarding the neglected return salute. Not George W. Bush. He is earning the respect of the military community, not expecting it – as most would.
8. I went to President Bush’s rally around Sept 11th in Huntington West Virginia and he was 1/2 hour late coming onto stage. People were annoyed and no explanations were given. Later that day I called Tom B on his cell phone. He is a local firefighter who volunteered during the days after 9/11 to go up and aid with rescue/recovery. Tom’s little boy is terminally ill with an aggressive form of brain cancer. My church had held a fundraising yard sale for this child and I had received more donations and was trying to contact Tom to see if I could catch him while he was in town (he was invited by President Bush to come to the rally since he had involvement in the recovery effort). Unfortunately, Tom was already in NYC for the memorial services the next day. I made arrangements to get the money to him and before I hung up, he stopped me. He asked me if I noticed the President was late coming onto stage. I said yes and he then told me why. President Bush was late because he was busy talking, personally, with Tom about his son. Even though he was late, he didn’t hurry up; he spent that time with Tom, privately. And when he got on stage and he could have grandstanded and said “I was late because I was talking to a sick little boy’s daddy,” but he didn’t. No one knows why, to my knowledge, unless Tom told them. And I do not know Tom on a personal level at all; he just felt inclined to tell me that.
– Alice M.
9. I remember when Air Force One was getting ready to take off from Bangor Maine, when the President was notified that another plane, soon to leave, would be heading to Iraq, and that her precious cargo were Soldiers. The President changed into a suit and tie, and proceeded to board the plane so that he could meet with the soldiers, who were ecstatic to receive a surprise visit from their Commander in Chief. Just the ‘little’ fact that the President would feel the need to change in order to show his respect for the troops is something that revealed his character, not to mention that he spent time talking to many of the soldiers personally.