By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
ACU alumnus Stephen Orr remembers seeing George W. Bush at petroleum club luncheons and other social meetings when he lived in Midland during the 1980s.
“He didn’t have any gray hair then,” Stephen said. “Eight years can really age a person.”
Stephen (’73) and his wife Pattie (’76) saw Bush again Tuesday night when they welcomed the former president and his family back to the Lone Star state at the Texas State Technical College airfield in Waco. The Orrs, along with about 3,000 people, waited on the tarmac for more than an hour in 40-degree weather, as Special Air Mission 28000 (formerly Air Force One) made its way to the airfield.
“Everybody was friendly,” Stephen said. “I’d say the mood of the crowd was very upbeat, very positive.”
The Orrs arrived at the airfield at 5 p.m., went through security and mingled with other supporters at a party in an airplane hangar, while several country bands played songs and guest speakers, including Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin, gave speeches. At around 6:30 p.m., people began to board buses that transported the crowd to the tarmac. Although not everyone in the crowd was a staunch Bush supporter, spirits were still high Tuesday night, Pattie said.
“It was a very happy day for Obama supporters, but I think it was also a day of gratitude for President Bush,” she said. “It’s a huge sacrifice to serve our country. I thought it was great that as neighbors we were there to welcome him home, and I sure would want someone to welcome me home if I had served eight years.”
After almost an hour and a half of waiting, Bush’s airplane landed as many people in the crowd waved red, white and blue cardboard “W”s and small American flags. Bush, along with former first lady Laura and daughters Jenna and Barbara, then exited the plane and greeted the crowd.
“It is a great day because we got to come home once and for all,” Bush said during a brief speech, according to an Associated Press story.
Bush only stayed for about 30 minutes to deliver his speech and shake supporters’ hands before boarding a helicopter, which flew him to Crawford. While she is grateful for what Bush did during his two terms in office, now is the time to support President Barack Obama, Pattie said.
“As Christians, we need to support whoever God has put in power and pray for them,” she said. “I think having such difficult times right now is a reason why that Americans are rallying around in a good way to support [Obama]. I took that message out of what I saw on TV and what Bush said.”
Obama most likely will see a job approval rating that exceeds 50 percent after his first week in office, according to a Gallup poll article. And according to a Jan. 14 Gallup poll report, George W. Bush’s final job approval rating came in at 34 percent. Since 1952, only Richard Nixon (24 percent) and Harry Truman (32 percent) have left the presidency with lower job approval ratings. Jimmy Carter left office with the same rating as Bush.
“People can emphasize whatever they want out of any historical period,” Stephen said. “But to me, the job is more important than the person. I’m of the opinion that it is probably the hardest job in the world. I know I would not want it, and I believe that Scripture calls for us to pray for our leaders.”