Wiping the President’s Tears

President Bush and ordinary citizen

Former President George W. Bush was right there – standing on the corner on Main Street in Rapid City, South Dakota. Most people were ignoring him. He looked lonely standing there all by himself. So I walked over to strike up a conversation.It was the kind of conversation I’ve always wanted to have with George – one where he doesn’t get to talk back or cut me off. I asked questions and made my points. My questions were the same as in the story of the President’s visit to an elementary school. The story goes like this.

The President talks to the children and then opens the floor to questions.

One little boy puts up his hand and George asks him what his name is.


“And what is your question, Billy?”

“I have three questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the U.N.? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? And third, whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?”

Just then the bell rings for recess. George assures the kiddies that they will continue after recess.

When they resume, George says, “OK, where were we? Oh! That’s right! –
Question time. So who has a question?”

Another little boy puts up his hand. George points him out and asks him what his name is.


“And what is your question, Steve?”

“I have five questions.  First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the U.N.? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?  Third, whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?  Fourth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early?  And Fifth, what the hell happened to Billy?”

All these years later, standing on the corner of Main Street with George W., I was prepared to ask Billy’s original three questions and a few others. I wanted to ask why his Party was blaming President Obama for what happened under his administration.

I never got to ask. as soon as I asked the question about Iraq, something strange happened.

I thought I saw a tear falling from his eye.

I pulled out a handkerchief and reached up to dry his tears. Only then did I realize: I hadn’t been talking with W. I’d been talking with his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush.

W is standing blocks away at the corner of 5th and St. Joseph, a thoughtful consideration for the older Bush, I thought, by the City Fathers of Rapid City. Here’s George, just like he was after declaring victory in the Iraq War: “Look at me, Dad, I finished the job for you!”

George W: “Thumbs up, Dad!”

Mission Accomplished

6 thoughts on “Wiping the President’s Tears

    • Cynthia, all the presidents are there. Ulysses S. Grant was interesting – very short with blurry eyes. Harrison is on a park bench feeding the pigeons. Was Harrison a naturalist? And FDR was the tallest and most magnificent of the sculptures, as well he should be.


      • And LBJ?? I recently read Passage to Power. LBJ was fascinating–and flawed. As a social worker, I am amazed by the legislation he was able to get passed, even tho his methods were not always ones I would approve!!!!


    • Thanks, Mona. Rapid City is very interesting. All the Presidents are there – on the four corners of intersections in the downtown. We had just had a great dinner at The Corn Exchange down the street. New York chef, French quizine on a bustling sidewalk just down the street from the elder President Bush. Glad you liked the piece.


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