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My Journey To The White House And Reflections On George H.W. Bush

As I reflect on the events of the last two weeks surrounding the death of our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, I can’t help but think of the sequence of events that launched my career to where I am now.

Craig Whitney talks about President Bush Sr.

Photos courtesy of Craig Whitney

As I reflect on the events of the last two weeks surrounding the death of our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, I can’t help but think of the sequence of events that launched my career to where I am now. It started with me working for then-Vice President George Bush in several capacities and roles in the mid-‘80s, transitioning to work for his 1988 campaign for President, and ultimately in his administration in the White House with Vice President Quayle.

Who would think that I, along with my wife, would then be invited as a guest to his funeral? (I did have the distinct privilege of attending the funerals of two former presidents, but in a staff role.)

In 1968, at nine years old, I became interested in politics and campaigns due to my father’s influence. I remember going door to door in an intense and tedious polling effort for Richard Nixon. Over the next 17 years, my interest in politics continued to grow as I became involved in a wide array of campaigns at all levels, as well as holding leadership roles within my local political party.

Then in the fall of 1984, Vice President Bush came to my community in a small town in southwest Iowa. Because of my party leadership, I became the main contact for his visit. Quickly, my interest in doing advance work for 41 peaked. I now had an avenue to work my way into the White House in a journey that took me across the country.

Now it’s the day after George Herbert Walker Bush was elected President, and the question was, now what? Next stop: The Inaugural Committee, and on Jan. 20, 1989, came my official entry to the White House with the privilege of serving in the administration for Vice President Dan Quayle—another man who is one of the finest people I have known.

Fast forward to Nov. 30, 2018, when President Bush passed away – he was 94. While his death was not a surprise, the lasting impression he left on me and the nation will never leave my mind. The personal privilege of sharing special moments and stories with and about him are embedded in my mind.

As you can imagine, the impact that he had on the lives of both me and my wife, Lori, are forever etched in our hearts. The ultimate honor was at his passing, we were invited to his funeral in Houston. Words can’t describe how honored we were to have been a part of the celebration of life of this American hero. A Navy pilot, diplomat, world leader, President, husband, father, grandfather and friend of many.

Mr. President – thank you for the privilege to serve with you and most of all for your patriotism to this great nation.

As I worked on this piece and as I reflected on the life of this great president, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another great man with great influence on my life—my father, Craig Whitney. I know my dad would have been proud of me and all my accomplishments. I wish every day he could have shared this journey with me. I’m grateful for such a supportive family and a great Bush-Quayle team that impacted the man I’ve become.

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Written by Craig Whitney

Craig Whitney is the president and CEO of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

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