I Still Won't Be Invited to The White House!
During this seemingly never-ending pandemic, I've been working long hours at home and by the end of the day, I usually want to do anything but spend more time on the computer. However, I have done some family history research every now and then, and I've managed to piece together another branch of the family tree: the Bush family.
US President George Herbert Walker Bush and his son, President George Walker Bush are my 18th and 19th paternal cousins respectively. Distant cousins yes, but cousins nonetheless. With the addition of the 41st and 43rd Presidents of the United States to my family tree, this brings the total number of US Presidents in the family to 22 out of the 46th US Presidents - that I know of.
When you add in First Ladies, the number of my relatives who have occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue increases considerably. With all that family history you'd think I'd be offered a personal tour of the seat of power for the Free World, but I'm not counting on it!
Truth be told, I have been in The White House once before, but it was back in 1972 when I was only 6 years old and my family's one and only big road trip from Ontario to Florida took place. I don't remember a lot about that visit but I do remember walking up to the front doors and noticing the big lantern hanging under the Porte-cochère and noticing how it was chained. Funny how strange things like that stay in your mind while the memory of the actual tour of The White House evades me. At the time of my visit, which was in November, cousin Richard Nixon was the President of the United States and he had just been re-elected to his 2nd term in office. Nixon was my father's cousin, of course, but my dad had no idea at the time of our visit. Had he known that the President was his cousin when our family toured The White House, he most likely would have said something - dad always liked to talk to people and I'm sure he would have talked to Nixon too. Of course this was all before Nixon's Watergate scandal and his ultimate resignation of the Presidency.
I think my dad would have been more comfortable speaking to President Gerald Ford anyhow, and President Ford was also another paternal cousin...as was his successor, President Jimmy Carter, who I know my dad would have talked to for hours if the opportunity had presented itself!
For me, I would have loved to have met President George Herbert Waker Bush and, of course, his wife, First Lady Barbara Bush (who is yet another paternal cousin for which I have yet to document our relationship). I remember the Bush Administration and I always liked the way that President George H.W. Bush handled himself, and like most people, I thought that First Lady Barbara was so down-to-earth and approachable, unlike my other paternal cousin, First Lady Nancy Reagan whose husband, President Ronald Reagan, had preceded the Bush's in The White House.
Admittedly I was not terribly fond of my cousin, President George W. Bush for most of his presidency. Even though I am a Canadian and have no say in the US elections, we Canadians view what happens in the US political system with great interest. After all, we are neighbors united in our love of freedom and democracy and we have a common culture and language (mostly), so what happens in the US is of importance to Canada.
After President George W. Bush left office however, my opinion of him began to change. When he spoke to the press, his demeanor seemed to change and what he said turned around my opinion of him. It may be simply that all the negative press of his Presidency had subsided, but he no longer sounded like someone who was unable to form clear and concise thoughts and opinions as he often had during his term in office. President George W. Bush displayed a great deal of love and protection for his family, and the respect and dignity with which he conducted himself at the funerals for his mother, and then his father, and the interaction he had with current and former US Presidents was impressive. What really changed my opinion of President George W. Bush was how well he got along with ex-Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama (2 of them - Carter and Obama, are also my paternal cousins) showed that he was a decent person - as were the other President's and First Ladies - and you could see a real camaraderie between the ex-President's and ex-First Ladies...until the now (thankfully) ex-President Trump and First Lady Melania showed up.
Perhaps it was the past 4 years of petulant, un-presidential, entitled behavior of the most recent ex-President that helped change my mind about President Bush, but I don't think so. I think now that George W. Bush is no longer in the public eye (at least not as much as when he was President), and cartoons are no longer making him out to be a bumbling buffoon, the real George W. Bush is able to shine. Being scrutinized by the press, not only in the US but globally, cannot be easy. It's not a life that I would want, nor do I think that I could handle having my every move and mood watched and reported on. While the power of the oval office, or any other high-ranking political office may seem appealing to some, I prefer my anonymity.
While I may not always have agreed with his policies while he was occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I can't help but admire the man. I think that George W. Bush would probably be a very nice person to sit down and have a talk with. Who knows, maybe he would even be able to get me inside The White House and take me on a personal guided tour?