Mom Meets President Bush
March 7, 2005
Photos by Andy Buchholz and Glenda Powers,
Narrative by Glenda Powers,
Web page and editing by John Powers.


Since Saturday, I've been in the heart of historic Gettysburg, PA, staying in a beautiful 1797 hotel on Lincoln Square. (Funny, that a small traffic circle dominates the so-called "square.") The weather's been fabulous and twice I've taken the opportunity for a self-directed tour through the district -- camera in hand, of course. No doubt, I've squeezed more walking into a couple of hours on my new knee than at any one time since the beginning of my knee problems so many years ago. This time I toured without difficulty or pain, PTL! The architecture here is splendid – some quaint, some majestic, all with a flavor of days-gone-by. But none of this tells my real story.

I'm here with my 15-year-old patient and his family. Marc has been a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic since a careless obstetrician severed his spinal cord in an effort to hasten his birth Two years ago The Dream Factory (who helps chronically ill kids) asked Marc what he'd most like to do. His response, "Meet The President of the United States." So, here I am, as Marc's night nurse, being a part of that dream fulfillment.

Eight of us (Marc, his parents, 3 brothers & two nurses) knocked on The White House door shortly after noon today. Well, actually, we didn't knock. We presented our IDs at the East Gate, dogs sniffed our van for bombs and, not finding any, we proceeded to the East Parking Lot. Twice more, we presented our IDs, had paddles waved before our fronts and backs, and were finally escorted past the final barrier and through the corridor and into The Diplomatic Reception Room.

While we waited, White House photographers photographed our group and that of another young disabled "dreamer." Since each group was allowed just one camera, we only had Marc's dad's. Interns volunteered to use his digital to continue photographing our visit, freeing dad for the visit and ensuring his photo would be included in this most memorable family event.

Barney was the first member of the First Family to greet us. The young kids went wild for the chubby Scottish terrier and everyone loosened up a bit. After ten minutes or so, his masters arrived and greeted us warmly. Mrs. Bush and Barney were unexpected treats.

President Bush was most gracious and engaging. After greetings and handshakes all around, he joined us for a group photo --one hand resting on my shoulder, the other on that of the other nurse. He then appropriately focused on the kids(siblings included) -- giving each a Presidential Seal tie-tack type pin. As per the local newspaper photo, President Bush fastened the seal on Marc's shirt himself, then presented him with a baseball (Marc's favorite sport). This, however, wasn't an ordinary baseball. This one sported the Presidential seal and a handwritten, "To Marc Buchholz, from George W. Bush."

Marc had been advised to prepare three questions to ask the President, but had time for only one. It was, "I know your job is a stressful one, what do you do for relaxation?"

Without missing a beat, The President replied, "Exercise and prayer. Knowing that The Almighty loves and cares for me, and that He cares more about this country than any of us can possibly imagine, gives peace. No matter what the situation, prayer provides a calming effect. It's central to my role as President." He hesitated, than added, "And family. Having a loving, supportive family is important, too."

The other fellow (a ten year-old with Spina Bifida) inquired about The President's favorite super hero. Mr. Bush gave two responses. The first I didn't recognize. The second was Abraham Lincoln. "Abraham Lincoln because he had a deep, abiding faith in God and in the need to preserve this Union. President Lincoln knew The Almighty was the only one who could see us through those dark days of American History."

The President then spoke gently and briefly with the kids, gave encouraging words to the parents, had his photo taken alone with each "dreamer," embraced them all, thanked them for coming and headed out to the South Lawn, where the Marine One helicopter was poised and waiting.

We followed as far as the veranda. Both the President and First Lady stopped two or three times to wave to the kids before the big bird swallowed them up. Secret Service and other crew members hurriedly joined them. We were nearly blown away when the chopper lifted, but stood transfixed by our brief encounter, until they all disappeared into the horizon. We lingered for nearly an hour -- speaking with White House staff and each other -- basking in the honor and grace that had been bestowed upon us.

The lingering paid off in another way. Just before parting, the fully-suited and heavily-armed Secret Servicemen changed shifts -- a major thrill for the five young boys present.


Tuesday's weather turned ugly. We plowed through an hour and a half of blizzard, had our expressway exit cut off by an accident, etc. while trying to follow Marc's speeding van (well, in all that slush and falling snow it felt like speeding) in a rented Neon. It's a miracle I didn't loose them or have an accident. But I didn't. And, though we arrived none to early, we weren't late either. I parked in a ramp garage, then jumped into Marc's waiting van, which was the only vehicle that had been cleared for security. Even so, it was bomb-sniffed again. We passed again. And, again, proceeded to the East Parking Lot.

We entered through the Visitors' Entrance, which was different than yesterday's Northeast Gate. This time we emptied our pockets into conveyor-belt trays and walked beneath an airport-type metal detector. The alarm sounded. I'd failed. So, back through the detector, I searched my pockets for something more. Back through the detector, the alarm goes off again. Uh, oh. I finally realized, my new knee was setting off the alarm. I offered to show the guards my knee-card and my boss (Marc's mom) vouched for the surgery. I guess they accepted it, 'cause they then swung the paddles over me like yesterday and let me pass through. Nope. The paddles don't detect my knee.

The Dream Factory and White House had arranged for the Secret Service to meet us to describe their work and training. We met a member of the Emergency Response Team, the Canine Team with his dog and the Bicycle Team. The boys ate it up. (As you know, I've already sent those pictures.)

The general public on a White House tour can't bring cameras. But, I believe because we'd all been prescreened (before we came to DC), any who wanted could bring cameras and we were given free reign to take any pictures we wanted. Hurray!

A guide escorted us around the first floor of the White House Executive Mansion – that is the Corridors, the Library, and Vermeil Room. We passed by the empty Diplomatic Reception Room, where we'd met The President on Monday. Now, looking at a map from The White House website, I see we also missed the China Room and Map Room. Marc and the other boy reached the second floor via The President's elevator, but we ascended the broad marble stairway.

Lower Corridor

Vermeil Room


Upstairs, we started at the east end, taking in the huge East Room, then (going west) the Green Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, the Dining Room and circled north back to the main Entrance and Cross Halls. I've given you at least one view of each of these areas. The walls, you may note, are covered with large paintings -- mostly of former Presidents. Besides getting the essence of each room, I busied myself taking pictures of pictures, trying to capture each Presidential painting. Now I hope to arrange them in chronological order. It ain't easy! These older guys don't always look like themselves (or, at least, other pix of themselves).

East Room

The guide, of course, told stories of events held in each room. The East Room, for example, hasn't just served as a ball room, as I'd imagined, but as a basket ball court, a wrestling ring, even a place to hang laundry. Now, John will tell you (and I'm sure he is right), that all this didn't occur in the room we saw. Besides the destructive fire from so long ago, President Truman had the entire White House gutted and rebuilt – so none of the rooms were the originals.

Main floor corridor

Dining Room

Dining Room

Main Entrance (North, facing Pennsylvania Ave)

Green Room

Red Room

Blue Room

You may know that Jacqueline Kennedy's White House passion was to preserve its history -- decoratively. Apparently, most of the Blue Room's furnishings had been sold off and she set out to find them. She did, in some obscure antique store in Illinois (I think). So, the found pieces were redeemed and returned to the blue room. Admittedly, she never recovered them all, and had a few pieces replicated to complete the set.

My favorite rooms were the massive East Room, the cheerful Dining Room, the cozy Library and the majestic front Entrance and Cross Halls.

Our promised half-hour tour lasted over and hour and a half. When we emerged, the snow had stopped, it felt warmer, but the sky remained overcast – as seen in the photos of the White House exterior. By the time I'd returned to our hotel, the sky was blue and spattered with fluffy white clouds. Go figure!

East Executive Drive

This had been a great tour, but not to be compared with our 20 minutes or so with The First Dog, First Lady and President, himself!

Having had only 3 hours of sleep for the past 3 days, I crashed on Wednesday and slept the whole day away until going on duty at 7 PM.

Thursday afternoon, I used my rented auto for a self-guided (don't know where I'm going) tour of Gettysburg. I stopped at the Hall of Presidents and, again, took photos of each and every one. From Washington to Bush, each had been cast in wax, and admittedly, not necessarily with great likeness. Our hefty 300-lb Pres. Taft, for instance, was depicted as slim., outright skinny. It made me wonder if they'd run out of wax. Whatever the cause, I found myself wishing that if I ever got depicted in wax, that I'd come out skinny, too! They did a special feature on Eisenhower, as at some time, he'd lived in the burgh.

The rest of the day found me tromping around muddy battlefields and cemeteries taking oodles of photos of statues and monuments -- not my favorite subjects, but historic, none the less. If you care to see them, I'll ship them. Otherwise, I'll refrain from boring you.

Friday found me working longer than usual, to relieve the day nurse who'd put in a few extra hours so I could capture those 3 hour naps earlier in the week. Saturday, we left early to return mid-afternoon.

...a week-long journey for a 20 minute encounter. But it was worth every second.