About 10 years ago, myself, the owner of our company and another agent sat down at a local restaurant to interview a new potential agent named David. During the lunch, he mentioned that his family had been very involved with a particular company. I said, “That’s great! I booked George and Barbara Bush for their national conference a couple of years ago.” I then proceeded to launch into this fun little story.
I’d booked George and Barbara Bush to speak at that company’s National Conference at a large convention center in Dallas. The event set up was that Barbara Bush would speak first. Then, well-known Christian singer Michael W. Smith would perform two of his songs. President George Bush (Sr.) would then be the closing speaker. To finish the event, the company’s founder and his wife, George and Barbara Bush, and Michael W. Smith would then all go on stage and take a bow together.
During the event, I was mostly back stage in an area where there were maybe 14 or 15 folding chairs set-up for volunteers. It was a separate area where you could hear what was going on up on stage, but it was still fairly quiet and private back there. Barbara Bush spoke first, then came off stage and went back to her dressing room, while Michael W. Smith went on to perform his first song, an instrumental number off his new album.
Now I’ve never confirmed this rumor since, but the chatter going around back stage was that Michael W. Smith and George Bush were close, and that Bush is sort of a father figure to “Smitty”. There were even people saying that Michael W. Smith played his famous song “Friends Are Friends Forever” in the room where they were getting results the night that President Bush lost the election to Clinton. (For those who don’t know “Friends Are Friends Forever” is a Christian pop song that was incredibly moving, sappy, and uber-popular, and was played to close every Christian camp, graduation, and mix-tape for the better part of two decades.)
Just as Michael W. Smith was finishing his first of two songs, President Bush arrived back stage. There were only one or two open chairs, so he walked over to this nice little 30-something woman and asked, “Is it alright if I sit here?” Stunned, she answered, “Oh, y..y..yes?”
He sat down, and shortly thereafter the opening notes of Michael W. Smith’s signature song came wafting back. As the chorus started up, the President began to sing in his nasally voice, “Friends are friends forever, If the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Then the woman and a couple of people around him tentatively joined in. “And a friend will not say never, ’cause the welcome will not end.” He kept going, so others joined in, more confidently. “Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long (dramatic pause), to live as friends.”
Really, it was just a magical moment. Smitty (Michael W. Smith) finished the song and walked back stage, and Bush gave him a quick hug before going on stage to deliver his speech. But the story doesn’t end there.
Following Bush’s speech and the five people doing the final bow, they all went off stage. However, instead of just walking back to their dressing rooms, Bush caught himself and stopped their group. “Hey, Smitty!” he said. “You started playing your song, and I started singing along…and I couldn’t sing. And there was another guy beside me…and he couldn’t sing, either. But there was this woman, and boy, she could really sing!”
He then proceeded to pull the woman forward, who seemed to be in a blissful state of shock, what with the President of The United States was poring praises on her in front of this music icon and all those people from her company and all. They then said their goodbyes and walked on, truly capping off a great event. But this story still doesn’t end.
Back to the restaurant- I had finished my tale and looked over at David, expecting something like “that’s a great story!” like I normally had gotten in response, or at least a smile. Instead, he had his head down, silent, looking sullen. “What’s the matter?” I asked, baffled. “Normally people like that story.”
A moment passed, and David said, “I’m the guy who can’t sing.”
“What?” I asked, not quite getting it.
He responded, “I was sitting on the other side of him, and started singing with him, and then when Smitty came out, the President said I was the guy who couldn’t sing. And what makes it worse is that I went to school for music!”
Despite his perceived inability to sing, David got the job, and has now gone on to manage a very successful manager of a very successful speaker, which is as confusing as it sounds. He may or may not have gotten over the President’s comment. But I still think it’s a good story.
Odds & Ends: This was around the time President Bush was going back on a much publicized trip to Japan where he was shot down in WWII. Note the parachutes on his tie. | I’d just started doing 5Ks, and Barbara Bush made a big deal how her son George could run a 7 minute mile. | This was just before digital photography came in. The client had gotten a giant American flag for clients as a backdrop to have their picture taken with George & Barbara Bush. However, just after they left, the photographer accidentally exposed the film, destroying all the photos. Luckily, before the event, I was backstage and a woman took my picture with President Bush and mailed it to me.