A Funny Thing Happened When I Met Barbara Bush
I had the chance to visit with Barbara Bush when she came to Missouri in the 1990s. Because of our common interest in reading, we visited a grade school and spoke with a group of new readers. Afterwards we went to a scheduled appearance, where a few thousand people had gathered to hear the former first lady speak.
We assembled to one side of the platform, in view of the audience, waiting to go on stage to take our assigned seats. After our names were announced, the audience began to applaud. I stepped back and made a slight waving motion allowing her to precede me. She made the same motion back to me. I again repeated my motion and she again extended her hand, this time with a slight nudge. It looked like we were doing a kabuki dance.
Finally, Barbara turned to me and whispered emphatically: “According to protocol a sitting first lady precedes a former first lady.” I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know there were rules for such things and likely our audience didn’t either. I smiled and walked to my seat, having been “schooled” that day in the proper way to walk onto a stage.
Afterwards, as we drove to the plane, there was no lack of conversation. Barbara talked to everyone in the car, including the driver, wanting to know more about each of us. We were only together for several hours, but I learned a lot that day about graciousness, good humor, and congeniality—as well as protocol.
Rest in peace, my friend. You are remembered well.