“I was able to meet him for the first time when I was 10 years old, that was back in 1966 when he was running for the Senate race against Dolph Briscoe and he lost.”
Gleaves Whitney is director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. He knew the Bush family growing up in Texas a mile or two from their home. A friendship and an appreciation for George H. W. Bush grew over the years.
“The story that really means a lot to me happened on President’s Day 2003. I had made an appointment some months in advance. My then 18 or 19-year old son was about to ship off to the Iraq War and the meeting that we had, President’s Day that year was February 17, 2003. The war breaks out over the evening of March 19th and 20th so we were a month away from war but everybody knew it was coming. It was an impending war. So I took the family to see President Bush. All of us went, the three boys and mom and dad. And so we’re sitting in his office and he could tell that mom and dad had some anxiety. So, he took the two little boys, Ian’s little brothers and he put one on each lap and he just patted them on their back and he said, ‘Your big brother is going to be alright.’ Now, I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. That was a beautiful gesture and it shows how beautiful really George Bush’s spirit was and that’s why I’ll always honor him.”
And it will continue this evening when Gleaves Whitney presents Common Ground focusing on civic engagement and how to unite a politically divided nation. That’s Wednesday, December 5th @ 7PM from the Loosemore Auditorium at Grand Valley’s Richard M. DeVos Center.
Patrick Center, WGVU News