Bush visited campus twice, honored MOVE
As mourners from across the nation gathered Wednesday morning in Washington to pay their respects and celebrate the life of former president George H.W. Bush at a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, older members of the Saint Michael’s College community still had memories of visits to campus by Bush in 1980 and 1984.
Another memorable Bush-St. Mike’s connection was the Bush administration naming the College’s MOVE service program as a “Point of Light” in 1990. It made Saint Michael’s the first College to be so recognized under Bush’s signature “A Thousand Points of Light” initiative, and just the 34th “Point of Light” named overall.
Accounts of the 1980 and 1984 Bush campus visits – the first when Bush was a vice presidential candidate, the second as vice president – can be found in the College Archives, written both by student journalists of the Defender staff and by now-retired longtime Saint Michael’s Public Relations Director Buff Lindau.
These accounts capture the excitement that Bush’s visits caused at the time, and stress the extensive security measures that the visits required – a challenge well-met by College officials by all accounts. Archivist Elizabeth Scott also shared these photos from the 1984 visit.
Here’s Lindau’s telling of the first 1980 visit by then-candidate Bush in a campus publication: “On Sept. 26 Vermont Republicans staged a $50-a-plate fund-raising dinner at the College with George Bush as featured speaker. The College was put to the test in arranging for the secret-service-approved 1,000 person dinner in the Ross Sports Center with less than three weeks of preparation time.” She goes on to note key roles by various staff members who rose to the occasion, and the extraordinary security. “President Edward Henry welcomed Bush and Campus Minister Fr. Thomas Hoar ’74, SSE, presented him with an SMC windbreaker as a memento of the visit ….. Bush then spoke briefly saying he was glad to be back in Vermont and joking about the several protest-sign-waving students in the assembled crowd.”
A Defender account of Bush’s Sept. 20, 1984 visit, this time as vice president and with his wife, Barbara, was headlined “A splendid little visit,” and noted how Bush “spoke to approximately 340 students in McCarthy Arts Center … In a speech that was billed as non-political … Bush took the opportunity to present his party’s platform and emphasize the distinct difference between the two parties campaigning for the November election. More than 500 students lined up in front of the Arts Center to see Bush … [and] many of them were there more than two hours before the Vice President was scheduled to speak.” The story mentions that security this time included a helicopter overhead and many secret service agents everywhere. It states that Bush got a standing ovation before and after his talk, and how the vice president fielded questions from students for 20 minutes after his remarks on topics from Latin America to international terrorism.
Lindau’s campus newsletter account of that 1984 vice presidential visit further notes, “Bush’s 40-minute appearance was almost secondary to the fanfare surrounding the visit. National media reports on the stop called Bush’s remarks the standard upbeat, Republican message about pride in our country, strength in the economy and good times in America again.” Her report tells how student Joe Viger ’85 asked the first question during Q&A about the deficit and how it might affect his generation –and that student Vinnie D’Angelo “presented the vice president with a Saint Michael’s sweatshirt and Mrs. Bush with an SMC-inscribed vase.”
“Not 45 minutes after they had arrived the Bush entourage was headed for the next stop on their campaign tour,” the story concludes.
A Point of Light
Several years later, Bush had been elected president, and in 1990 in a source of great pride for the campus community came this press release account of an honor for a signature Saint Michael’s program through his administration:
“MOVE, the volunteer service organization of Saint Michael’s College, was singled out by President George Bush in January, 1990 as his 34th Point of Light, the first college program to be so recognized and one of the very early award recipients in a project that will ultimately identify 1,000 Points of Light. To encourage individual volunteer service across the United States, President Bush initiated his 1000 Points of Light awards project in 1989, to continue through his presidency. Designed to recognize work which lightens the burden of the poor and needy, the program was heralded during the Bush inaugural address as key to addressing this country’s social crisis.” The release goes on to tell about MOVE”s work in the community and its origins.
President George H.W. Bush’s personally-signed letter dated January 18, 1990 and addressed to Volunteers of MOVE at the College concerning the “Point of Light” designation, read as follows:
I was delighted to learn of your outstanding efforts in behalf of your fellowman. Your generosity and willingness to serve others merit the highest recognition and praise.
Since taking office as President, I have urged all Americans to make community service central to their lives and work. Judging by your active engagement in helping others, it is clear that you understand this obligation. We must not allow ourselves to be measured by the sum of our possessions or the size of our bank accounts. The true measure of any individual is found in the way he or she treats others – and the person who regards others with love, respect, and charity holds a priceless treasure in his heart. With that in mind, I have often noted that, from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others. Your endeavors provide a shining example of this standard.
Barbara joins me in congratulating you and in sending you our warm best wishes for the future. You are a bright “point of light” for your fellow Americans, and you have our heartfelt thanks.
Sincerely, George Bush.”