I had the honor of writing for George H.W. Bush starting in October, 1987 when he was still vice president and through his term as president. I was still writing for President Ronald Reagan at the time and the vice president sort of “inherited” me for his upcoming campaign.
I have many fond memories of my association with him and many stories and anecdotes, but one stands out because it was a lighthearted moment that demonstrates how a president’s words can have an effect apart from politics.
In 1990 President Bush welcomed the world champion Oakland A’s to the White House, following their autumn 1989 World Series win over the San Francisco Giants. The president enjoyed using humor and I was asked to contribute something that the speechwriter for the event, Curt Smith, could include in the Rose Garden remarks.
There’s a lot of poetic license in humor so I made up the following: “One of my grandkids told me he wanted to be a baseball player, not a politician, because politicians never get their pictures on bubblegum cards.”
We thought that was that, but the Topps card company took the story seriously and a few months later printed 100 cards with a picture of the then-24 year old George Bush in his 1948 Yale University baseball uniform. Newsweek magazine did a story including the photo, Bush was given the card set, and as of 2013 a signed card in good condition and clear-coated sold for $3,367. For the record, I never had one.
I’ll remember George H.W. Bush as one of the most decent public figures I ever had the privilege of working with, a man who was a better diplomat than a politician, a factor that contributed to his defeat in 1992. If he could be summed up in one word I believe that word is “character.” We’re unlikely to see his likes again in this era of toxic politics.
Thank you Mr. President for allowing me to help you keep things light at various times in your political life. Our country would be much better off if there were more like you.
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