The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum was just weeks away from opening on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station.
My assignment was to go there and interview the former president about the opening of his library. There was one other subject that he must have known would come up from any self-respecting reporter who had the opportunity to do a one-on-one interview. And, it did. His son, George W. Bush was the sitting governor of Texas, and there was talk that he would run for president.
When I got to the campus, I had a couple of hours to kill before the interview. I decided to walk around. Soon, I found myself at the bookstore. There, just inside the front entrance, was a display of a new book that was for sale. It was President Bush's latest book entitled, "All The Best." I thought about my mom and bought a copy to give her as a gift, hopefully autographed.
At the appointed time, I arrived at President Bush's apartment and met my contact. He led me to the room where we would be doing the interview, and I met the freelance photographer who would be shooting it. It was not long before secret service agents came in.
When the president appeared, he walked straight over to me, shook my hand and asked my how my flight was. I was struck by how personable he was. Now, I work very hard to keep my political feelings to myself, and I think I do a pretty good job of it. As my daughters often say, "Dad won't even tell us how he votes."
I say that to say this, President Bush comes off as a very classy man in person. It is not uncommon for elected officials to have a businesslike, let's-get-this-over-with attitude when they are dealing with reporters. That was not the case that day. He certainly had had a lot of practice dealing with media types in his many years in office, but if how he interacted with me that day was any indication; he had mastered the art of making a reporter feel like he mattered.
We talked about family, baseball and whatever was happening that day. He mainly wanted to talk about family, his and mine. And, that was all before the interview began. When the camera started rolling, we touched on a variety of topics, with the focus being his library. Then it came time to ask about his son. His answers surprised me. When President Bush talked about the possibility of his son becoming another President Bush, he didn't sound like a politician. He sounded like a dad. He had been on the biggest stage in the world, and his big concern was what he son would have to go through if he decided to run. You could tell he wanted to protect him from the unpleasant part of running for the highest office in the land. But, of course, when it finally came to what he thought; he said he son would make a great president. That part, I did expect.
When the interview was over, President Bush was still not hurrying me along. It was almost like he enjoyed our talk. It felt like a good time to get the book. Trying not to sound star-struck, I told him that I had bought it impulsively and asked if he would sign it for my mom. He said of course, and asked me her name. I told him it was Rachel. The group in the room began saying their thank-yous and goodbyes while President Bush continued writing. When he finished, he handed the book to me. We said goodbye.
On the plane ride home, I went over my notes and began the editing process. But, I kept going back to his comments about family. I came away from that interview with the feeling that he didn't see being president as his greatest accomplishment in life. No, it was something much more mundane. I thought his greatest source of pride was being a parent and a grandparent. That was truly the takeaway from our conversation that day. Then I remembered the book. I pulled it out of my bag to see what he had written. It removed any doubt. It wasn't a signature; it was a dedication…from a dad to a mom.
President Bush had written, " Rachel, I hope you are as proud of your sons as I am of mine." -George Bush.