Six degrees of separation: It’s real
Throughout the nation this week people have reflected on the passing of President George H. W. Bush.
When I got to reflecting about the legend that the late President is I thought about the theory of “six degrees of separation,” and while I never met one of the most successful people in American government history, many times I have had connections that lead back to him.
One of the most direct connections I have with him is through his former White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater.
Fitzwater about 10 years before I entered college at Franklin Pierce University helped raise funds needed to build a state of the art Communications Center where hundreds of students like myself found our voice in the public discourse.
Fitzwater is someone who is very generous with his time, and while he may be one of the most successful spokesperson in history (serving two presidents as White House Press Secretary), he always made time to chat with us, give us advice, tell us stories, and teach us about journalism and the role that people like himself play in the world of public discourse.
While I got to meet him on many occasions, I will never forget the first time I met him and how personable he was.
I remember I was getting ready to interview with one of my colleagues whose name also happened to be Alex. This was going to be my first on camera interview I had ever done and I was pretty nervous.
Fitzwater, who is a media pro, most likely saw my nervousness and said something to loosen me up. He said to the effect of “us big guys need to stick together,” which prompted me and my colleague and good friend Alex to laugh, and from there on out I was referred to big Alex and the other Alex was referred to as skinny Alex anytime we saw him.
Quite truthfully I am forever grateful for Marlin Fitzwater and all the great things he did for my University.
Another connection that I had with President Bush is one that many history buffs may know, and that is the fact that his wife, the late Barbara Bush, was actually a distant cousin of the late President Franklin Pierce, whom the college I graduated from is named after.
For those of you that don’t know Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and was the first and only president ever elected from New Hampshire.
The Bush family took the heritage of Barbara being a Pierce as well. I remember when Jeb Bush came to speak on our campus while he was running for president he explained that his mother was born Barbara Pierce, showing his pride for his family ties.
The final connection that I have with the late president comes from Andy Card.
For those of you don’t know Andy Card was the person pictured whispering in President George W. Bush’s ear on 9/11 after the Twin Towers were hit.
Card served as the chief of staff for President George W. Bush and was considered a major part of the administration in many ways. He also served as the United States Secretary of Transportation under George H. W. Bush and until the day he died was a friend of the late president.
Card held a variety of different roles for America’s government over his career but a role that he held most recently is what I am most thankful for.
My college was on the brink of bankruptcy, facing major financial difficulties like other small liberal art colleges, and was to make serious cuts including cutting different majors.
Then Card through his various connections through the University, including serving on the Board of Trustees at one point, was persuaded to interview for the position.
He was ultimately given the job and left his position of Dean of the George Bush School of Government, to run a small school in Rindge New Hampshire.
Thousands of people associated with the college and myself are very thankful that he decided to serve as our college president.
For a man who was the gatekeeper for the highest office in the land, and someone who is extremely successful for a number of different reasons, he was one of the most down to earth people I had ever met.
For a man that once gave advice every day to a president, it was inspiring him to see things like eating lunch in the cafeteria with students, or picking up litter in the courtyard.
I think one that showed his character the most was during an interview that I conducted with him.
He had just taken over as our college president and me and “skinny Alex,” who I referred to earlier got to do a on camera interview with him.
During the interview, he answered a question about serving the country by saying something to the effect of “When the president asks you to serve, you accept the invitation to do so.”
To me what it showed was not a man who was extremely successful but a man who loved his country more than anything that was also extremely successful.
I have a belief that has worked out for me most of the time so far in life that leaders’ characters are reflected in who they surround themselves with.
Through the connections I have with the late president, it is evident to me that George H. W. Bush was a extremely wise and caring man who loved his country very much.
Thank you Mr. President for helping our country during some of the most difficult days our country has faced and surrounding yourself with admirable people.