Reflections on Meeting President Bush

By Dave Andrusko

President George W. Bush

Editor’s note. This first ran in 2002. I offer it annually for three reasons. It reminds us what a decent human being President George W. Bush is. It is also a very nice reflection on the annual March for Life, which takes place a week from today. Lastly, this also references the meeting between Mr. Bush and Coretta Scott King. Today, of course, is the federal holiday commemorating the birthday of her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A generous society values all human life. A merciful society seeks to expand legal protection to every life, including early life. And a compassionate society will defend a simple, moral proposition; life should never be used as a tool, or a means to an end.”  — President George W. Bush, addressing the March for Life.

He walked into the room unannounced and as unobtrusively as the most powerful man in the world can. Even as we rose from our chairs, he said in the same conversational tone we would hear for the next hour, “Thanks for coming.” Welcome, NRLC, to the White House of George W. Bush.

Everything we experienced January 21 was of a piece with the picture painted by those who’ve known President Bush for a long time. For instance, he is pro-life, as comfortable with that designation as he is with “Texan.” And that applies not only to abortion, but also to cloning and euthanasia. …

Mr. Bush is blessed with a sense of humor which he uses to put his guests at ease – – no easy task when you’re sitting a few feet from the President of the United States. Unfailingly polite, he is also the kind of man who will ask you if it would be “okay” if later on he walks you over and shows you the Oval Office. [Well, alright, if you absolutely insist.]

The next day Mr. Bush would be in West Virginia, but he was not too busy to find time to address by telephone the massive throng which assembled in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. The crowd was so captured by the eloquence of his words you could hear a pin drop.

But what caught my ear was this: “Abortion is an issue that deeply divides our country. And we need to treat those with whom we disagree with respect and civility. We must overcome bitterness and rancor where we find it and seek common ground where we can. But we will continue to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society.” Utter respect for those who differ with him, utter determination not to confuse civility with an unwillingness to work to save unborn children.

If you read the newspapers the day after the January 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, you may have come across a list of pro-life actions the President has already taken to change the way we converse about the life issues and to alter the moral and political calculus. Many are subtle changes, others are more straightforward. All are intended to push the discussion forward, to thoughtfully persuade the American public to reconsider one of the great mistakes in our nation’s great history: Roe v. Wade.

On this, I believe the President has perfect pitch. Intuitively, he grasps both what will resonate with the American public at this point in history and how in the months and years to come he can use his office’s moral authority to refashion how we come to see the Littlest Americans.

Mr. Bush understands that public opinion will not turn on a dime. Helping people see the humanity they share in common with the unborn is more akin to turning an ocean liner around. But it can never happen until someone of President Bush’s convictions is at the helm and begins that 180-degree turn.

There are many memories I carried away from those 60 minutes but none more enduring than the perfect juxtaposition between Mr. Bush’s meeting with us and the one that took place immediately afterwards. Moments after we left, Mr. Bush met with Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday. For the first time, a portrait of the slain civil rights leader will now hang in the White House.

As I read the accounts of their meeting, President Bush gave an eloquent testimony to the legacy of Dr. King and ended by giving Mrs. King a presidential kiss.

The contrast to what those of us old enough to remember the 1960s is enough to take your breath away. And it also demonstrates yet again that this nation is capable of addressing its most serious weaknesses. Today, there is no starker example of America failing to live up to its ideals than abortion. But this, too, will change.

And it will change because slaying innocent children is an abomination completely at odds with America’s core values, and because of you, who, like President Bush, will not rest until it does end.

For you are the spiritual heirs to those Dr. King named in his 1964 speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. He could have been speaking of you when he said,

“Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live – – men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization – – because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.”

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