"Thank you for being scouts." I never knew such humble words
could contain so much meaning. Spoken by President George W. Bush as he shook my
hand, an inane, boyish feeling fell over me as I muttered back a short thank you
in return. And on a day in which Wyatt Schroeder, Jason Kuklinski, and I
witnessed the beauty of democracy, I could not help feeling turgid with pride
about being an American.
In reality, our opportunity to meet the President was quite
remarkable. George W. Bush was set to make a campaign stop at the Boeing plant
in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania to thank the Boeing workers for their outstanding
construction of the Chinook rotorcraft, an advanced helicopter used in
the War on Terror. Two days before the scheduled arrival, Boeing called Gary
Schroeder, Wyatt's father and president of Chester County Council, requesting
three scouts to lead
the Pledge of
Allegiance. Wyatt, Jason, and I were contacted the same day and were told that
on Tuesday August 17, 2004, we would witness the president speak in
Classed as performers, we arrived before the general
admission. Security was indubitably tight, as even beyond the metal detectors,
secret service members were constantly on the prowl. And, as the plethora of
entertainers invigorated the sun-fatigued audience, the faces of the agents grew
stern, sending a clear message that the President was near and that now was not
the time for games. Then it was our turn. Taking the stage, we all stood with
pride as Wyatt venerably recited the words of the Pledge of Allegiance into a
nearby microphone. And as we retreated, the grins on our faces were not from
standing in front of the 8,000 in
attendance, but for
the growing anticipation of the President's
arrival. The press took their positions, the snipers commanded their
posts, and out strolled the relaxed, yet smiling President. Greeted by chants of "Four more years," President Bush
commenced his speech with a bit of humor, noting that he often visits
Pennsylvania for its famous cheese steaks. He continued his speech, calmly leaning against the podium,
to an awed and grateful crowd. Touching on topics such as education, the
economy, and the War on Terror, President Bush was often interrupted by bursts
of applause; and as his speech concluded, a cacophony of whistles, shouts, and
chants created a deafening ovation, only to be augmented as the President began
to round the stage.
Shaking hands and signing autographs, President Bush made his sojourn much
more personal. And as he advanced towards the three scouts standing among
the audience, an anonymous
|Jason, Wyatt and
Tait lead the Pledge of Allegiance at President Bush's visit to Boeing.
shout bellowed from nearby. "Mr. President, we have some Eagle Scouts over here!"
Flanked by secret service agents and smiling, he approached, shook our hands,
signed autographs, and sincerely thanked us.
Most who witnessed the speech stood a little taller that
afternoon, but for three boy scouts from Troop 62 the day was especially sweet.
Being thanked by the president is a memory that is comparable to none, and I
know that for the three of us, it is one that will never subside.