As a young White House staffer in the early years of President George W. Bush's administration, I was always struck by President Bush's kindness, warmth and genuine humility. I saw it when he choked back tears as he comforted grieving families after 9/11. Or in the camaraderie he shared with wounded warriors. But I saw it in small moments too. Here's one of those that meant a great deal to me personally.
As I prepared to leave the White House for a new job opportunity, Ashley Kavanaugh, the President's secretary at the time, called to tell me that the President wanted to invite my family to come visit in the Oval Office on my last day of work. It was 2003, a few days after the start of the Iraq war, when my brother, sister and father arrived at the White House Northwest gate. This was a busy time for the President. I anticipated a quick photo op. So, as we walked down the drive toward the West Wing, I instructed my family not to linger too long with the President. I knew that he had a great deal weighing on him, more than usual, and had an especially tight schedule that day.
We were ushered into the Oval, introductions were made, and White House photographer Eric Draper snapped a photo for posterity. After a few minutes of pleasantries, I thanked the President and began to usher everyone out.
As we turned for the door, he boomed, "hang on," and motioned us back, insisting that we stay a little longer. He asked my brother about his career plans, my sister about her studies in college. He took the time to get to know each of them. As we left, everyone was beaming.
Later, I thanked the President for how generously he had welcomed our family. As much as I appreciated it, I asked why he had taken so much time for a junior staffer and his family from a small town in North Carolina? "Well," he said, "this may be the one time in their lives your family will ever visit with a President in the Oval Office. I wanted to make sure that it was something they could remember."
Everyone who has worked for President Bush has stories like this, my friend Dana Perino has afilled with them (here's and ). Many of these are far more awe-inspiring than mine ( and ). But, sometimes it's the that best illustrate true kindness and real character.
Correction: A previous version of this post referred to the author as a White House intern, this was incorrect as the author was a White House staffer.
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