I was cleaning out my work email and found a rather old one--from January 20, 2009.
An acquaintance had sent me a collection of YouTube tributes to President Bush. I was busy at the time, but I think another reason I never got around to watching it was because I resented being sent it. I liked President Bush (still do), but I do not like acquaintances making assumptions about my political beliefs/values.
So it sat on in my email for six months... until today. I watched this video and was struck by three things:
1. How long ago that all seems--it's been only six months of President Obama, but it's amazing how easily we've settled into thinking of another president instead of the one we had for eight years. But beyond that, it seems like so long ago because the national focus seems to be so different now...
2. How young and relatively unburdened Bush looks in the early pictures of his presidency. It's extraordinary to look at that light-filled face from early on, now that we're possessed of a full eight years' knowledge of what he would face on both a security and political level... And to see the responsibility and pressure of war and protecting the country bear down on his shoulders and line his face. Would he have had the strength to run for election had he known what success would require of him, how it would change him inside and out?
3. [based mostly on some other, poorer videos included in the email] His humanity shone brighter as the years went by... so many pictures of him embracing and touching people, particularly service members and their families... the very people he was asking to sacrifice in big and small ways, the asking of which was causing his critics to rain down abuse. He wasn't perfect (don't get me started, haha!), but how anyone could doubt his love for America and her people is beyond me.
Then I stumbled across the following, which broke my heart. It reminded me of a horrendous day I had as a first-year music teacher. Over lunch I was verbally assaulted by a colleague in a setting which required me to keep my bearing and not give as good as I got. After it was over, I completely fell apart and sobbed. I pulled myself together (or so I thought) in time for the afternoon class with the 1st graders. Eyes dry but emotions tumbling inside, I opened my mouth to lead vocal warm ups and discovered that the throat and mouth positions required to sing properly were way too close to those of crying; after just a couple notes something shifted almost imperceptibly, but it was enough to result in a knotted throat and instantaneous tears. I stopped and swallowed hard, but repeated attempts to sing ended the same way. Their classroom teacher, who was still standing in the doorway, mercifully figured out what was going on and quickly took the children back to their classroom.
Apparently Bush is made of sterner stuff than I.
With the intro sung as it is here, the prayerfulness of the song becomes crystal clear. You gotta know that as a deeply religious man, President Bush was praying it from the depths of his soul. Beseeching, knowing that so much was dependent upon him and the rest of America's leaders (November 2007).
You couldn't pay me enough to deal with what he did for eight years. Not a chance...