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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

December 4, 2018

Celebrating a Special Bush Gift

Harry M. Covert

On a July 1983 afternoon the lanky Yale man walked into The Roosevelt Room of the White House. It’s the center of the West Wing near the Oval Office.


Wearing a light tan three-button Brooks Brothers suit a smiling No. 43 stuck out his right hand, “I’m George Bush.”


He acted as if he knew me. I surely was acquainted with the 43rd vice president of the United States. Along with two other Virginians, we sure had our egos lifted a bit. It was a delightful time.


He talked without being hurried, made us feel at home and that he knew our reasons for visiting.


At that time only Virginia and New Jersey were having state senate campaigns. I was one of four candidates in the hallowed room.


A 43-year-old rookie was I. Our genteel patrician host couldn’t have been more supportive. He wished us all success, even encouraging us to keep him posted on our results.


The session was photographed, individually. Within a few days, a special package arrived. Enclosed were a handwritten note, two photographs, one in color and another black and white for public relations purposes. To this day they are treasures. My campaign was unsuccessful but the memories linger.


Further, it wasn’t too long when a gift arrived. A beautifully wrapped present from the Office of the Vice President was delivered. Inside an elegant velvet blue box was a pair of vice presidential cufflinks and tie pin. Emblems showed the seal of the Vice President plus a printed note.


Loser or not, it was terrific.


Now I set the stage for the following escapade. Six months later I found myself in Khartoum, The Sudan. The purpose was to establish a collegiate camp for a humanitarian program.


This effort opened diplomatic maneuvers, involving refurbishing a former construction facility. Before all the good works could start, approvals from the Sudanese government would be necessary.


The task began at the Sudan Embassy in Washington. Contacts were made, though slowly. The difficult work had to be conducted in Khartoum. Diplomacy can be more than frustrating.


Moving along, for at least a week and a half, I daily visited the Sudan government’s Office of Social Welfare. The head official greeted me afternoons with tea. He read my documents, was courteous, but, always suspicious as to our intentions.


This happened every day. Notes endorsing our project from his Washington ambassador didn’t help.


Finally, our chats turned to American politics. He was skeptical. Finally I got to name dropping. I bragged that I knew George Bush, exaggerating we were longtime friends.


The social welfare director’s eyes lit up, saying he admired Mr. Bush. He seemingly questioned my bluster with a straight face. I kept up the talk, even described the Bush Kennebunkport home. More tea and then cookies.


At this point I figured I had found the key. Another appointment was made for earlier the next day before afternoon Islamic prayers.


Now the coup de grâce. Returning to the hotel, I grabbed the blue jewelry box from my suit case, all intact with Vice President Bush’s note. I had the hotel gift shop wrap the box in silver paper with blue ribbon.


At the appointed time, wearing a blue suit, crisp white shirt and club tie, I presented the gift to His Excellency, noting Mr. Bush asked me to hand deliver to him. A big smile arose, with it came a hug and two kisses Moslem style.


Later that afternoon, thanks to No. 43, who later became the 41st president, officially signed approved documents arrived. Our facility was underway.


I’ve kept the tie pin to this day. And, along with all Americans tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating the life of George Herbert Walker Bush.


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