The speech, given by President George W. Bush at the McKinney Education Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala on Saturday evening, was the highlight of the evening. As the former president walked to the podium, he was given a standing ovation and from that moment on, he was "it." With more than 600 guests in attendance, he held the rapt attention of the audience as he shared thoughts from his bestselling memoir, Decision Points. Bush also talked about his experiences during his years in the White House and what it's like to transition from Commander in Chief to being another Dallas resident.
A champion of education with the No Child Left Behind program that was initiated during Bush's tenure as president, it was appropriate that he was the keynote speaker for the McKinney Education Foundation's (MEF) anniversary event where guests celebrated the 20 years of education being a top priority to McKinney residents.
Most of Bush’s speeches are closed to the press, and this was no exception, so I was not allowed to record or report on the event. That's a shame. This was a side of the former president that I did not expect - a side that I didn't know existed - a side that, to my knowledge, had not been portrayed by the media during his presidency. He was gregarious, amusing, entertaining, caring, and unassuming to the point of being something of just a "regular guy" one might enjoy sitting down to have a conversation with.
One thing I will mention, and this will come as no surprise to those of you who have read his book, is that Bush espouses freedom. It's one of the basic principles he holds dear and he believes that freedom is universal. (wish I could say more!)
Following his speech, Bush sat opposite Master of Ceremonies, Steve Stoler, Collin County reporter with WFAA Channel 8, and appearing relaxed and at ease, answered more questions.
Others I spoke with who attended the event were also quite impressed and inspired by Bush's presentation. Some VIPs who had the opportunity to meet the former president said he was warm and engaging.
I, for one, have a new understanding of how difficult, stressful and daunting the task of leading our country can be. I'm inspired by Bush's caring.
The following story from Collin County Sheriff Terry Box demonstrates the person the media, or perhaps the president's staffers, didn't show the public.
We were attending the McKinney Education Foundation Gala last night. Steve Stoler was the emcee and as we started to eat Steve come over to our table and said,
"Sheriff do you know what the President asked me in the green room?"
I said, "I have no idea."
He (Bush) said he wanted to know if Terry Box was still the Sheriff, Stoler told me.
Well you could only imagine how I would get the big head. I asked Steve where the President is now, he said he was up front in a roped off area. We were in the far back of the room so I got up and made my way to the front to see how close I could get without drawing fire from the Secret Service.
I walked behind his chair and said, "Mr. President" he turned to his left and said, "Terry!" and stuck out his left had and we shock hands.
He (Bush) said, "As we were driving up here tonight, I saw your re-election signs and I thought to myself, is that guy still Sheriff?"
I said, "Yes sir!" He wished me luck and I walked away. Well that was worth the price of admission!
I had the privilege of asking him to speak at our State Sheriff's Assoc. when he was Gov. and I had the honor of introducing him. He also appointed me to the State Commission that regulates all the jails in Texas. He is unreal when it comes to remembering names.
For more photos see the TSB Glam Cam on the Homepage.
Since inception, MEF has provided the following support:
--Scholarships to over 2,800 students for a total of $4,208,655
--Through the advisor program, students have secured an additional $44,275,542 in individual scholarships and grants.
--50% of McKinney students receive aid for college either through direct scholarships or advisor assistance.