As the Nation mourns the loss of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, I am moved not only by the greatness of this man as a leader and husband, but also as a loving father. In the days since President Bush’s death, there has been no shortage of media coverage regarding the attributes that made him such an amazing man and public servant. There have been blogs, articles, tweets, videos, and posts from past Presidents, diplomats, celebrities, friends and family. But, the one that has been tugging at my heart and bonding me to President Bush as a kindred spirit of sorts, was a segment that aired on Good Morning America this past Monday.
President Bush was a storyteller, and often he shared these stories through letters. Letters he wrote to his beloved Barbara, sweet and poignant prose capturing the memories of his beautiful daughter, Robin. The curly haired blonde was the gentler side of the Bush children. As the President so eloquently put it “There was about her a certain softness. She was patient. Her hugs were just a little less wiggly.”
For the President and Mrs. Bush, the time they had with their sweet little girl was all too fleeting. At age three, after a round of tests to determine why she was feeling under the weather, an unthinkable diagnosis of leukemia was given. In 1953, there was not a lot of hope for children with this diagnosis. They were instructed to “take her home, love her. In about two weeks she’ll be gone.” To this advice George and Barbara Bush said “no.”
They took Robin to New York, to Memorial Sloan Kettering. This is a hospital I am all too familiar with, having spent a vast amount of time there with my own son, Jack, when we were looking for hope as he battled his own cancer. Robin underwent treatments for seven months before her little body gave up. Similarly, after his diagnosis, my Jack fought for nearly 7 years before we were told to “take him home, love him.”
Because of his sweet Robin, the 41st President and I are in a club for which no one seeks membership. We both have heard the words “your child has cancer.” We both have had to say goodbye to sweet, little blonde heads and soft, kind hearts before we were ready to let go. And, the void of this crushing loss led us both to dedicate our time to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research so that other parents would not have to join our club.
Our stories, however difficult, are not without hope. President Bush used the loss of Robin as a catalyst to create a different story for other parents. After he left office, he and Barbara raised millions of dollars for cancer research. And, while the reason for our connection is heartbreaking, I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of giants the likes of President and Mrs. Bush, as we continue to work towards finding cures for childhood cancer.
At his inauguration in 1989, President Bush spoke of “all the individuals and community organizations spread like stars through the nation, doing good.” At G9, this is our mission…to do good by spreading the golden light of awareness and raising funds so that every child, everywhere will survive cancer. Thank you, Mr. President, for your great work…for our country, for your family, and for everyone seeking a cure for beautiful children like Robin and Jack.