I served from 2002-2006 as a member of George W. Bush’s Administration. Because of this, I am completely biased in my opinion. However, I believe that sharing my perspective on events I personally saw might lend clarity to those who saw the Bush 43 Presidency only through their television screen and the lens of the mainstream media.
All presidencies have their success stories as well as agenda items that didn’t work out the way they planned. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, cyber-security, and a lagging economy tend to define a presidency.
No U.S. President is immune to these challenges and each President handles America’s struggles differently.
My story with President Bush started in 1999. I was recruited to run the California Bay Area campaign shortly after I arrived in California. I was recovering from a broken ankle, my husband was working at a medical device start up company, and my son was a little over two years old.
It seemed like a great idea to once again volunteer my time for a Presidential campaign. Heck, I had already worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (and also a fellow named Bob Dole who would have made an outstanding President if it were not for a savvy operator named Bill Clinton).
When I agreed to Chair the Bay Area campaign in California, I didn’t realize that the “Bay Area Region” included areas like Berkeley and San Francisco, which in retrospect gives everyone who knows me a chuckle now.
Governor Bush campaigned in 2000 as a “different kind of Republican” – and he was. He visited the Bay Area six times and we put together events that showcased technology in the classroom, opportunities to help the homeless, and the great diversity of California as seen through the eyes of Latino and Asian businessmen and women.
One television station covered a rally in Oakland, California where then-Governor Bush shook hands with all the business people on stage with him but kissed yours truly on the cheek.
My son was three at the time, calling it “the famous video of George Bush kissing my mom!”
This was four years before the founding of Facebook. You can bet that we would have posted it if that medium, Twitter and Instagram had existed, which tells you a little bit about how the world has changed since Bush was elected.
About a year later, I was honored to be asked to serve in the Bush Administration. They liked my views on business and regulation and on September 29, 2001, I received a call from the White House asking me to meet with the Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao.
That day sticks in my mind every year because it was the date of my Dad’s funeral. He had lost his battle to a rare form of lymphoma a few weeks after the attacks of 9-11-01 and we were in Upstate NY. It was also my son’s fourth birthday.
I was able to meet with the Secretary of Labor early in November. My appointment and a top secret clearance were confirmed, and I started as the Western Regional Rep for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Region IX in January 2002.
I was called back to Washington, D.C. for an all hands training seminar that was conducted by Secretary Chao. I remember the plane ride back to my old stomping grounds feeling so honored to be asked to once again serve a U.S. President.
What I learned over the next four years about the role of government, the agility of U.S. businessmen and women, competitiveness, and the spirit of American entrepreneurship could fill a book.
Some of my most cherished memories serving President George W. Bush included:
- Watching the “MBA President” and his talented Secretary of Labor overhaul government programs to make contracts more competitive and government more accountable to the people they served.
- Working side by side with Asian, women and Latino business owners in California to help their communities understand the role of government, their responsibilities as business owners, and the rights of their employees.
- Seeing apprenticeship battles first hand through the eyes of rank and file union members worried about losing control and merit shop contractors who just wanted a level playing field.
- Watching first hand how the Department of Labor helped displaced airline workers in California get jobs after 9-11 through retraining. They were hired for high paying engineering jobs in high tech fields like biotechnology.
- Receiving the Exceptional Achievement award from the U.S. Labor Secretary for leading a team in Region IX that helped secure back pay for 200 Asian women immigrants who worked in a sweatshop in San Francisco.
- Traveling to Doha, Qatar along with Democrats and Republicans who served as part of a delegation that taught Arab women from six countries the value of public service and how to run for office.
We did a lot of good things that helped keep America competitive after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. It was because President Bush trusted his Cabinet Members and appointees to fulfill the American dream by providing an environment where businesses could flourish without government meddling.
I met the President several times during those four years.
What sticks in my mind the most is this story:
All of the regional heads of all the major departments had been called to Washington for an Administration update and training session. We were sent to the side steps, just outside the White House and asked to line up. President Bush walked out to smiles and applause from his appointees. He said:
“Thanks to all of you for being here today. I want to thank you for your service to your government and remind you who the boss is.”
We all clapped, thinking it was the President who appointed us.
Then President Bush said:
“It’s not me. It’s the American people. Never forget that.”
A few lines. A lasting memory for those who served.
Public service is not about serving the man who is the head of state. It is about serving the people who government needs to help. It is not about Obama phones or sequester. It is about making good decisions that benefit the country as a whole, not one or two interest groups.
I continue to care deeply about government getting out of the way when it comes to creation of American jobs.
I continue to believe that productivity increases, sometimes at times when you least expect it, as it did after the terrorist attacks of 911, when the American worker rallied to get life back to normal.
I continue to find the events of 9-11 to be the defining moment of the Bush Presidency. His ability to bring this country together at such a sorrowful time may never be equaled.
I continue to smile when I think about the Texas swagger, honesty, compassion, and service of a man who I believe history will look favorably on as a great President.
This is my story and I’m sticking to it.