Meeting with President Bush
what I had hoped...
from a man, Bruce Vincent, from Montana who received an award
from the President. He
written the following narrative to chronicle the day of the award
ceremony in DC. I'm still working on a press release but the
White House press corps has yet to provide a photo to go with it.
When the photo comes I'll ship it out. When you get done reading this
you'll understand the dilemma I face in telling this story beyond my
circle of close friends.
with the President in the Oval Office was incredible. I want to
protect the memory because it was an intensely private moment between
two men. At the same time I'd like to share it on a broader scale
because I'd like others to know what I know about the man sitting at
the desk in the Oval Office.
For now, I'll just tell it to you folks.
Summary of the eRumor
account of a man's visit to the Oval Office at the White House.
He was there for an awards ceremony, but ended up in a short prayer
meeting with the president on behalf of his step-mother who was having
Bruce Vincent is
real. TruthOrFiction.com contacted him and he says that this is
an accurate account of his encounter with President Bush in May, 2004.
Nominated by the Forest Service for the first ever Preserve America
President's Award was our cultural exchange program Provider PalsT and
our restoration of an abandoned CCC built Forest Service ranger station
(Raven Ranger Station) for use as a learning center for students from
throughout the nation that are now engaged in our cultural exchange.
The award was given at a White House ceremony on Monday, May 3. Guests
at the East Room ceremony (the Rose Garden was going to be used but it
rained) included Secretary of Interior Gorton, Secretary of Agriculture
Venneman, Undersecretary Mark Rey, Chief Bosworth, President's Advisory
Council for Preserve America, and others. The East Wing was
closed to the public for the event and those who attended enjoyed
brunch and live chamber music.
PalsT was able to bring members of our board of directors, staff from
our partner Communities for a Great Northwest, our Kootenai Forest
Supervisor and Forest Archaeologist, and two officials from our major
sponsor Ford Motor Company. Thankfully, I was also able to bring PJ and
all four children. In the East Room, Secretaries Venneman and
Gorton spoke as did First Lady Bush and Preserve America's Chairman
Lady then gave autographed copies of a White House book to award
winners in this ceremony and posed for pictures. When the ceremony
concluded, the First Lady stayed for a bit in the Green Room and
chatted and posed for pictures. She was then escorted outside to
meet the President and board a Marine One helicopter waiting to whisk
them off to the airport.
however, the biggest event of the day had already happened when the
East Room Ceremony started up. While the East Room ceremony was
being prepared, the four national award winners and the entities that
nominated them were taken to the Oval Office for the official award
presentation by President Bush and First Lady Bush. There were
eight of us in total.
into the Oval Office, each of us was introduced to the President and
Mrs. Bush. We shook hands and participated in small talk. When
the President was told that we were from Libby, Montana, I reminded him
that Marc Racicot is our native son and the President offered his warm
thoughts about Governor Racicot.
I have to
tell you, I was blown away by two things upon entering the
office. First, the Oval Office sense of 'place' is unreal.
The President later shared a story of Russian President Putin entering
the room prepared to tackle the President in a tough negotiation and
upon entering the atheist muttered his first words to the President and
they were "Oh, my God." I concurred. I could feel the
history in my bones. Second, the man that inhabits the office
engaged me with a firm handshake and a look that can only be described
as penetrating. Warm, alive, fully engaged, disarmingly
penetrating. I was admittedly concerned about meeting the
man. I think all of us have an inner hope that the most powerful
man in our country is worthy of the responsibility and authority that
we bestow upon them through our vote. I admit that part of me was
afraid that I would be let down by the moment - that the person and the
place could not meet the lofty expectations of my fantasy world.
This says nothing about my esteem for President Bush but just my
practical realization that reality may not match my 'dream.' Once
inside the office, President Bush got right down to business and,
standing in front of his desk, handed out the awards one at a time
while posing for photos with the winners and Mrs. Bush.
mission accomplished, the President and Mrs. Bush relaxed and initiated
a lengthy, informal conversation about a number of things with our
entire small group. He and the First Lady talked about such
things as the rug in the office. It is traditionally designed by
the First Lady to make a statement about the President, and Mrs. Bush
chose a brilliant yellow sunburst pattern to reflect 'hope.' President
Bush talked about the absolute need to believe that with hard work and
faith in God there is every reason to start each day in the Oval Office
He and the
First Lady were asked about the impact of the Presidency on their
marriage and, with an arm casually wrapped around Laura, he said that
he thought the place may be hard on weak marriages but that it had the
ability to make strong marriages even stronger and that he was blessed
with a strong one.
When asked what the biggest challenge of the Presidency was, he talked
about the daily frustration of partisan politics. 'This from a
politician,' he said. He said that when he was elected he
promised that he would do in DC what he had done in Texas and that was
build alliances and coalitions that bridged party lines in order to
move the nation forward. He had quickly learned that there are
those in the nation's capital that would rather see the nation
dismantled than work together to achieve a common good. That, he
said is a bitter and continuing disappointment.
President talked about the artwork and other items of interest in the
room. For instance the desk he uses is the one that was given to
the U.S. by Queen Victoria and used by FDR and JFK. In fact FDR
had a front panel added to the desk to cover the mid section because
FDR did not want the country to know he was in a wheelchair.
President Bush laughed and said, "My how things have changed, FDR hid a
wheelchair and if I eat a pretzel and get a tingle in my arm it's front
page news around the globe." That little desk faux front is
hinged by the way, and is the door that we all have seen John-John
sticking his head from behind in the famous photo of JFK at work.
The President also noted that much of the artwork in the office is from
Texas or about Texas. He said that it made sense for him to have
it in his office because Texas is part of who he is. He talked
about family and place and faith helping to build the person you end up
being and noted that the Oval Office reflected who he is. He
noted that it would be a mistake to come to the Oval Office and
entertain a mission to 'find yourself.' He said that with all of the
pressures and responsibilities that go with the job, you'd best know
who you are when you put your nameplate on the desk in the Oval
Office. He said he knows who he is and now America has had four
years to learn about who he is. If they like what they see, he
may have another four years. If not, then he may be going back to Texas.
30 or 35 minutes, it was time to go. By then we were all relaxed
and I felt as if I had just had an excellent visit with a friend.
The President and First Lady made one more pass down the line of
awardees, shaking hands and offering congratulations. When the
President shook my hand I said, "thank you Mr. President and God bless
you and your family."
already in motion to the next person in line, but he stopped abruptly,
turned fully back to me, gave me a piercing look, renewed the vigor of
his handshake and said, "Thank you - and God bless you and yours as
On our way
out of the office we were to leave by the glass doors on the west side
of the office. I was the last person in the exit line. As I
shook his hand one final time, President Bush said, "I'll be sure to
tell Marc hello and give him your regards." I then did something
that surprised even me. I said to him, "Mr. President, I know you
are a busy man and your time is precious. I also know you to be a
man of strong faith and have a favor to ask you." As he shook my
hand he looked me in the eye and said, "Just name it."
I told him
that my step-Mom was at that moment in a hospital in Kalispell,
Montana, having a tumor removed from her skull and it would mean a
great deal to me if he would consider adding her to his prayers that
day. He grabbed me by the arm and took me back toward his desk as
he said, "So that's it. I could tell that something is weighing
heavy on your heart today. I could see it in your eyes.
This explains it." From the top drawer of his desk he retrieved a
pen and a note card with his seal on it and asked, "How do you spell
her name?" He then jotted a note to her while discussing the
importance of family and the strength of prayer.
handed me the card, he asked about the surgery and the prognosis. I
told him we were hoping that it is not a recurrence of an earlier
cancer and that if it is they can get it all with this surgery.
He said, "If it's okay with you, we'll take care of the prayer right
now. Would you pray with me?" I told him yes and he turned
to the staff that remained in the office and hand motioned the folks to
step back or leave.
"Bruce and I would like some private time for a prayer." As they
left he turned back to me and took my hands in his. I was
prepared to do a traditional prayer stance - standing with each other
with heads bowed. Instead, he reached for my head with his right
hand and pulling gently forward, he placed my head on his
shoulder. With his left arm on my mid back, he pulled me to him
in a prayerful embrace. He started to pray softly. I
started to cry. He continued his prayer for Loretta and for God's
perfect will to be done. I cried some more. My body shook a
bit as I cried and he just held tighter. He closed by asking
God's blessing on Loretta and the family during the coming
months. I stepped away from our embrace, wiped my eyes, swiped at
the tears I'd left on his shoulder, and looked into the eyes of our
President. I thanked him as best I could and told him that me and
my family would continue praying for he and his.
As I write this account down and reflect upon what it means, I have to
tell you that all I really know is that his simple act left me humbled
and believing. I so hoped that the man I thought him to be was
the man that he is. I know that our nation needs a man such as
this in the Oval Office.
George W. Bush is the real deal. I've read Internet stories
about the President praying with troops in hospitals and other such
uplifting accounts. Each time I read them I hope them to be true
and not an Internet perpetuated myth. This one, I know to be
true. I was there. He is real. He has a pile of
incredible stuff on his plate each day - and yet he is tuned in so well
to the here and now that he 'sensed' something heavy on my heart.
He took time out of his life to care, to share, and to seek God's
blessing for my family in a simple man-to-man, father-to-father,
son-to-son, husband-to-husband, Christian-to-Christian prayerful
He's not what I had hoped he would be. He is, in fact, so very,
very much more.