Like many, I mourn the passing last weekend of George H.W. Bush. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire week in close-quarters with America’s 41st President! This was on his first visit to Japan after leaving office.
Really, what a great man he was; Ambassador to China, Head of the CIA, Vice President, and then President! A warm and down-to-earth person.
President Bush visited Tokyo in 1995: I was hired to organize-and-run his 5-day visit. After spending 3 weeks advancing his itinerary with the Secret Service, I met the President and quickly briefed him at the penthouse suite upon his arrival.
“Why don’t you join me for breakfast so we can talk about the week in front of us?” And with that, our relationship flourished. I did not know then, but he had some total surprises in mind that he hadn’t shared with anyone else.
As it stood at that point, the schedule was not so very daunting and had already been advanced. But I quickly was educated that “whatever the Man wants, he gets…” and all the careful planning consuming my prior 3 weeks was about to get turned upside-down. I didn’t think about it then, but the way he asked me, like a tease, should have queued-up the reality that showtime was quickly approaching… and he knew I was the one who was supposed to make it happen.
Over toast and eggs, I briefed him on the schedule while he browsed the morning’s Japan Times… almost as if not listening. When I finished, the President peered at me and I noticed for the first time that his eyes were deep blue: “Well, it looks like we have some openings throughout the week, doesn’t it, Langley?”
He said that last word as if he relished it, like it was funny in an ironic way… and he called me by my last name the entire time. The thing is, it gave me enormous if undeserved credibility within the 8 person Secret Service detail (and the many onlookers in hearing range!); so I didn’t mind at all.
As I was preparing myself for his request to organize a shopping visit for gifts, he began with, “I see from this morning’s paper that the Emperor seems to be in town. He is such a warm and wonderful person; I’d like to see him. Do you think you can arrange that?”
I was actually stunned: meet the Emperor, without a 6 month advance, just ringing Him up?! “Yes sir, please let me see what I can do…” tumbled out of my mouth as if I was someone else’s mannequin.
And before I could recover, he continues as if we are discussing the weather: “And I really should say hello to the current Prime Minister… who is he again?”
I answered, “Tomiichi Murayama, sir”, hoping that was the end of it. “Great, please see what you can do.” It was not really a request, just a matter-of-fact statement.
“And the former Prime Minister, Keiichi Miyazawa, we are good friends you know? He knows I am coming so he should expect your call; I’d like to have dinner with him and his family… please set that up?”.
Unbelievably, he actually went on-and-on from there: the Foreign Minister, the former Foreign Minister, the visiting Russian Head of State, LDP powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, U.S. Ambassador Mondale… my head swooned.
Long story short, in spite of no notice, I got him each-and-every one of these meetings he wanted… in addition to a fastidiously advanced (3~4 times each!) 6 event standing schedule over 5 days (this being Day One!): because it was Bush.
What a great man, what a great experience. Rest in peace Papa Bush. ———- Please visit www.langleyesquire.com for more information about our services.