So this last week has been pretty surreal for me. I have spent more time with people from all kinds of different political perspectives than I can ever remember. I had lunch with one guy who works as a banker, who gave me a well-thought out perspective on fiscal conservativism, and five minutes later picked up a hitch-hiker who needed a ride to sign up for welfare.
I had a bit of ideological whiplash.
And then Leslie and I got to meet the President.*
We were invited to go to a fundraiser that he was speaking at, and we really love the people who invited us, so we went. And it was really, really fun. And here are a couple of observations about meeting one of the most famous, influential people in the world.
It was like watching an idea become a person. Bush has spent the better part of this decade being a idealogical lightning rod for whatever people wanted to project on him. And here’s where Leslie helps me. After we visited with him for our 30 seconds of picture taking, I asked her what she thought. She said, “He has kind eyes.” Which is not something I would have noticed.
I told Bush in our short time together that what I really appreciated about his administration was that he had done more than any other world leader in history to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa. And I meant it. Bono is one of many who has publicly praised Bush for having compassion toward the least of these. And while I don’t agree with everyone of his policies, this is something that I haven’t heard talked about that much by the media, and that’s a shame. I had to read it in Vanity Fair (which, by the way, is where I obviously get most of my political insights from).
When Leslie and I were walking away from our photo-op with Bush, I was stopped by a secret service guy who grabbed my shoulder and said my name. Which I didn’t take as a good sign. I saw a thorough frisking and a bright light interrogation in my immediate future. But he was actually a new member at RHCC who I’d met a few months earlier. Which was a relief to say the least.
I noticed how different it was to hear Bush speak unmediated. Without any running commentary from people saying, What he really means is this, or what he should have said was that. And one of the biggest surprises of the night for me was that Bush isn’t like the caricature that has been painted for him. But here’s what I really liked about the night. Bush and I are in the exact same place politically.
That is we are both retired from politics.
The more Bush talked about what he planned to do with his life from here, the more I found myself liking him. He said he refused to be critical of Obama, because he knew first hand how hard that job was and knew the President had enough critics.
I’ve never been one to care for politics, it was exhilarating getting to meet someone who has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Bono, but I don’t like who I become when I begin to care about this stuff. I don’t like the way it makes me treat or think about others. I would rather get my hands dirty with actual ministry than talk about legislation to the people I want to help.
At the end of talking with Bush, he told Leslie and I that he intended on continuing to work with the world’s poorest without being in power. And that sounds like something I’d like to be a part of.
*This is actually the second time I’ve gotten to met a President, to be fair he hadn’t served as president yet, but Bill Clinton held me when I was a kid. Unfortunately my parents don’t know where that picture is.