I've 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.
Stepping 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.
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. With the mission accomplished,
the President and Mrs. Bush relaxed and initiated a lengthy, informal conversation about a number of things with our entire
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 with hope. 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.
about 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." He was 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 well."
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
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."
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
From the top drawer of his desk he retrieved a pen and a note card with hiss 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. When he 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.
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. He said, "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 I and my family would continue praying for him 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 embrace. He's not
what I had hoped he would be. He is, in fact, so very, very much more.