Monday, December 14, 2015

Author’s Talk Topped by Former President’s Visit

Students attend a World Affairs Council of Houston lecture by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham (seated).  Spring Branch ISD students include Dakota Gibson (back row, right) and Arman Lanijani (back row, left) from Academy of Choice and Alexis Ofori (far left) and Emily McCown (fourth from left) from Memorial High School.
They came for the award-winning author’s remarks. They left dazzled by former President George H.W. Bush and his hugely popular wife, Barbara Bush. For two students, it was a photograph with Mrs. Bush to cherish.

Several students who attend Academy of Choice and Memorial High School were on hand at a World Affairs Council of Houston lecture on Dec. 8 by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham. His new book revisits the life and the presidency of President Bush and his strong and supportive marriage to Mrs. Bush.

Little did the Spring Branch ISD students know or expect that both Bushes would appear at the special evening event in the ballroom at The Junior League on Briar Oaks Lane. They did appear, and 500 attendees were stunned and enthralled.

Barbara Bush attends the evening event, titled “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush,” at The Junior League with Academy of  Choice students Alex Maddox (left) and Matthew Lundgren (right).
The evening event, titled “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush,” featured Meacham in dialogue with Ambassador Chase Untermeyer. It included a reception and planned program on Meacham’s new book, titled Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.

In 2009, Meacham, who now serves as executive editor at Random House, won a Pulitzer Prize for his presidential biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. In addition to writing books, Meacham has served as editor-in-chief of Newsweek magazine. He was contributing editor at Time magazine, too.

Students attending the Academy of Choice program with instructor Joyce Roberta Miller-Alper included Dakota Gibson, Arman Lanijani, Matthew Lundgren and Alexander Maddox.

Two students, Arman Lanijani and Dakota Gibson, took a photograph with Mrs. Bush, who was her usual alert and bright personality, at the Council event.

“The time I had at the event last evening, my first one with World Affairs Council, was intriguing. I learned that it takes a lot of tenacity to be a president, and it takes stability and effort to be a great author,” SBISD student Dakota Gibson said.

“I had no idea that Bush 41 would be there. No one did, and it made it more impressive to see the respect accorded him by the entire audience,” he adds.

During his wide ranging talk, Meacham spoke about interviewing President Bush over nine years, as well as his access to the diaries of President and Mrs. Bush. His book includes candid assessments of critical figures during Bush’s presidency and era, from Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld.

Meacham also talked about current politics, and how it differs from so many other presidencies throughout history, including Bush’s own.

Compromise is the oxygen of democracy,” Meacham said. Presidents need to know how to balance competing interests. President Jefferson often invited his opponents to dinner; he did not demonize them, Meacham noted.

Speaking about current politics, he asked rhetorically why having experience is viewed as bad today? “The presidency shouldn’t be an entry level job,” he said.

The writer used humor and interest to remind the audience of presidencies past: Andrew Jackson’s duels, Thomas Jefferson’s love of wine, Bill Clinton making believe that he knew an artist well. Details speak to presidential character.

He also spoke knowingly and revealingly about President and Mrs. Bush, including the president’s life as a military pilot, as a young father, and Republican candidate.

“What an incredibly powerful story. It gave me chills to hear about President Bush in the plane during World War II, and how he escaped and his two companions did not,” Alex Maddox reported. “Up until this day, he ponders ‘Why me?” This is the motivation for the rest of his life – to serve.”

“He was a man of honor,” reports student Matthew Lundgren. “Attending World Affairs Council is a wonderful opportunity to network and meet people that will help you later in life.”


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