‘W’ made a trip down to Haiti recently and NBC was lucky enough to have exclusive access to his trip because his daughter, Jenna, was conducting the interview for the Today Show. We could practically walk up to him whenever we wanted, and if secret service told us to step back, all we had to do was say “I’m with NBC,” and they would let us go wherever we pleased. It was pretty freaking amazing considering I’ve never seen that kind of access to a President before.
Anyways, I just happened to be standing next to him when he was briefly left alone, which resulted in it just being the two of us for about 30 seconds. Our eyes met, he approached me, my heart rate rose to about 1,000 beats per second, and we shook hands. The conversation went something like this:
Bush: Hey there.
Me: Mr. President, how are you?
Bush: Doing well, what do you think? (we were touring a textile factory that his foundation was supporting)
Me: It’s good, a little hot in here, but good.
Bush: It is good. Who do you work for?
Me: NBC, I’ve been working with your daughter for the past couple days.
Bush: That’s great, she’s great, isn’t she?
Me: She is, it’s been a pleasure working with her. She’s a real professional.
Bush: Well, thanks for all your hard work. (I’m guessing this is how he ends all of his small talk conversations)
Me: Thank you, Mr. President.
And that was it. Afterwards I kicked myself thinking there were so many more profound things I could have said to him considering I would probably never get that chance again. I could have talked about how his “bottom-up” approach is not actually bottom-up when you are giving the money to the rich textile-factory owners and not to the people. I could talk to him about how he was the one that signed off on my father making Admiral in the Navy. I could have had some balls and said, “Mission Accomplished, huh?” I didn’t do any of these things, which is probably a good thing. But at the same time I’m pissed that I now have this relatively unmemorable conversation with one of our former Presidents as a life story. My kids will ask, “Have you ever met a President before?” and I will answer, “Yes, but don’t even bother to ask what we talked about, it was completely insignificant.”
So I’m taking this conversation as a lesson for the future, hoping that I will be better prepared in an effort to avoiding inane conversations. But other than feeling a little let down by my lack of presidential small talk abilities, the rest of the visit was great, and was an experience that I will not soon forget. Especially because we got yet another group shot with the man himself.