Today was one of the more exciting days in Daly family history — the reason why all depends on who you ask.
My boys, Trent and Troy, quizzed early this morning about what they thought the highlight of their day was going to be, took nanoseconds to respond, “We’re going swimming!” It was a particularly joyous occasion for Trent, the fish of the family, since he hasn’t been able to hit the pool for a couple of months after breaking his wrist this summer.
So it seemed a perfectly natural answer for a 10 and 8-year-old — even though they were only a few minutes away from meeting the 43rd President of the United States.
I brought the boys and Jean along with me to Dallas today to meet President George W. Bush at his office here, where we recorded a Focus on the Family broadcast scheduled to air next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 14th and 15th. I’ve met Mr. Bush a couple of times before, and was thrilled to have the opportunity for the boys to meet him, too.
Almost as thrilled as they were to splash around in the hotel pool.
The President was friendly and gracious with them, giving them presidential bookmarks as gifts and wishing them a Merry Christmas. (He also had a little fun with me, remarking as I was telling him about a spill I took mountain biking with a mutual friend, “You’re a little big for a mountain bike, aren’t you?”) The boys and I had talked in advance about some questions they might want to ask him, and with a little help from Dad they did find out whether the President carries money.
The answer? No.
Mr. Bush said aides handle any point-of-sale purchases that need to be made, so there’s no need to keep cash on hand, but added that the funds used for buying everything from food for the First Family to putting up relatives at Camp David comes from a president’s personal finances.
That was just one of the interesting things discovered in the 90 or so minutes the Dalys and some members of the Focus team spent with the president this morning.
They say you can tell a lot about what a man values by the way his office is decorated — and in that case it’s clear President Bush is a person of great faith and love for his family. The wall closest to his desk is home to three large photographs: one of him with his daughter Jenna on her wedding day; one of him with his wife, Laura; and one with his other daughter, Barbara.
On the credenza behind his desk are a few family photos as well: one of his father’s inauguration as president (there are no photos, tellingly, of Mr. Bush’s own two inaugurations); a shot of his grandfather, Prescott Bush, a U.S. senator; and an old family snapshot taken outside an airplane — the days when air travel was an *event*! — featuring his parents and grandparents and him as a toddler.
President Bush’s desk is neat and mostly unadorned — there’s a clock, a small bust of an eagle and a small bust of a steer. There were two books stacked there, as well: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God But Were Afraid to Ask” by Eric Metaxas and “All Things Are Possible Through Prayer” by Charles L. Allen. On the credenza is another pair of leather-bound editions: “Decision Points” and the New American Standard Bible.
I was fascinated by “Decision Points” and the straightforward way President Bush discussed the key highs and lows of his eight years in office — from the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to the financial crisis of 2008. What struck me most, though, just as his office reflects, was how his faith in Christ and his love of family helped him weather the rough times and deepened the joy of the good times.
I don’t want to spoil some of the insights you’ll hear on the broadcast next week, but there is one thing he said to me off-mic, before the recorders started rolling, that I think succinctly sums up who he is. As we were about to begin, I told him I wasn’t going to ask a lot of questions about politics, but rather explore his personal journey as a believer in Christ, a husband and father and son, who served the American people during a particularly meaningful moment in history.
“That’s about right,” he said as he nestled into his chair. “It is Focus on the Family, not Focus on the Party.”
Those are the words of a man who seems to have his priorities straight, a man my boys will be proud to have met.
Just as soon as they get out of the pool.