41: My moment with G.H.W. Bush

Former President George H. W. Bush came to Great Falls, Montana in 2000 to stump for his son’s campaign for President of the United States of America. It was fortunate for me that I was very involved with the Great Falls Pachyderm Club, the Cascade County Republican Party and actively volunteering in the local campaign headquarters to elect conservatives at the local, state, and national levels. Those connections afforded me the opportunity to attend the special campaign event that took place on 4 November. It was my good fortune to have been invited to stand front and center at the event with my homemade sign.

Crammed in the room like sardines, standing side to side and practically back to belly, it seemed like an eternity waiting for the event to start. I had worn a cotton velvet blue dress. It was a great looking color, very comfortable outfit but it certainly was not a good choice considering the temperature in the room with all of the body heat sucking up the air, not to mention the incredible energy and excitement that naturally heightened the experience.

Finally, a lean man, he seemed much smaller in person than I had imagined, entered the room. I thought he would be taller. Still, I watched 41 stride in to wave to the thunderous crowd, working his way across the stage to take his place on the stand. I was gobsmacked. He was every bit as delightful and charming as he appeared to be on television.

When it was time for the former president to leave he began to work his way downstage right of the front row, it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to shaking his hand, hoping he would have time to do so without being rushed off before getting to me. Having used up my camera, the kind that used film, I put its strap on my left wrist in preparation to shake his hand. 

Quickly he moved down the line. It was my turn! I looked Bush 41 in the eye, shook his hand mentioning how my husband served in the Gulf War, that it was a true honor under his presidential command and that Dean was unable to be at the event as he was still active duty.

The former president surprised me with a most sincere reply as he reached for the camera swinging on my wrist, saying we should take a picture. When I informed him I was out of film his smile turned down saying, “Oh. That’s too bad.” 

His shoulders drooped for a moment. He tilted his head. His face seemed pained that he could not do that small act of service for me, emanating a sincere sorrow that I had not expected. He seemed, perhaps, disappointed that I was out of film to take that photo.

George H. W. Bush accepted my comment with the utmost humility. He wanted to serve me in return. There was no arrogance. His was not the photo op obligation response. It was a sincere, genuine act of kindness to take that moment with me. I will always remember him touching my life as a #PointOfLight.

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