Before there was a “W” in the White House, and before there was even a “President Bush” there was a campaign where Ronald Reagan ran for the White House against 1-term President Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s running mate was George Herebert Walker Bush, U.S. Congressman, U.N. Ambassador and director of the CIA. I was living in Shreveport, Louisiana at the time. As was the custom, the candidates and their wives spent virtually every day on the road, campaigning. For the opening of the Reagan-Bush/GOP headquarters, the campaign sent Barbara Bush to cut the ribbon and say a few words. I was a fledgling radio guy – the News Director for my college radio station, and the appearance of a candidate’s wife was newsworthy. So I hopped in my ’65 Galaxie 500 and motored downtown to check things out. Had little idea of what I was doing, mind you – just thought it would be cool to attend an opening.
When I arrived, a couple of people recognized me…my father was fairly well-known as a local musician, and some of his friends were movers and shakers in the local GOP. As the event was winding down, one of them asked me if I’d like to ride with Mrs. Bush in the limo taking her out to the airport. No idea why – they could have had any number of “real” reporters there do a story on her, and get some quality time with the candidate’s wife. But they picked me.
It’s been 28 plus years since that day. I don’t remember everything we talked about. But I do remember that I was impressed – no, overwhelmed – by the graciousness, the intelligence, the dignity, and the strength of character that Mrs. Bush exhibited. She was charming, attentive, witty, and wise. I remember when I said something self-depreciating, she admonished me, and said that everyone had ways to contribute to the world and to America, and offered that she believed I had talents that should not be squandered.
It wasn’t a long trip, but it stuck in my mind. She could have easily said “I just want to rest on the way to the plane,” lectured me, talked over my head, or a million other ways that would have put me in my place. But she didn’t. She engaged me in a conversation, and treated me as if I was as important as a network anchor.
I filed the conversation in my book of memories for years, right up until her son, George W., challenged a popular Democrat governor for the Texas state house. Even then, libs and media types were jumping on the “George W. is a moron” bandwagon. I knew better. Having met Mrs. Bush, I knew that George W. must be a man of character, for nobody like Barbara Bush would raise a son without a strong moral compass.
When W. was elected Governor, I watched, as he surprised almost all the pundits by governing through consensus between the Democrats and the Republicans in the state. After an initial reluctance, even the hard-core liberals in the state legislature begrudgingly acknowledged Bush as a talented Governor, who ruled not with an iron fist, but with a talent for persuasion – an essential skill in Texas, as the Governor does not have a large amount of control over most areas.
The first time W. ran for President, I thought of his mother once again. I thought about how much influence she must have had over her son, and how her strength of character would have given him the skills he would need, both for the campaign and as President. And I was right.
Yesterday, news leaked that Mrs. Bush had been hospitalized, but was expected to be released in time for Thanksgiving. I hope and pray she’s alright, and gets well soon. In my book, she was – and is – a patriot, exhibiting that rarest of al qualities in a political family – grace under pressure. The world – and America – needs more women like Barbara Bush.
God bless you Barbara Bush, and may God speed your recovery.