A fourth-generation logger from Montana, Bruce Vincent was in tears when he walked out of the Oval Office.
As executive director of Provider Pals, a youth cultural-exchange program, Vincent was among a small group of people invited to the White House on May 3 to receive the first Preserve America Presidential Awards.
His first impression of President Bush: "a firm handshake and a look that can be described only as penetrating. Warm, alive, fully engaged, disarmingly penetrating."
But then Vincent came face to face with a personal side of Bush that few have seen, particularly in the Oval Office - his spiritual side.
"After about 30 or 35 minutes," Vincent recalls, "the president and first lady made one more pass down the line of awardees, shaking hands and offering congratulations. When the president shook my hand, I said, 'Thank you, Mr. President. God bless you and your family.'
"He was already in motion to the next person in line, but he stopped abruptly, turned fully back to me . . . and said, 'Thank you - and God bless you and yours, as well.'"
Vincent then took the opportunity to request that Bush remember his stepmother, Loretta Vincent, in prayers that day. At that exact moment, Mrs. Vincent was having a tumor removed from her skull at a hospital in Kalispell, Mont. What occurred next is worthy of presidential, if not religious, history books.
"He grabbed me by the arm and took me back toward his desk as he said, 'So, that's it. I could tell that something is weighing heavy on your heart today. I could see it in your eyes. This explains it,'" were the president's words to Vincent.
Bush then discussed with the award recipient the importance of family and the strength of prayer. "He said, 'If it's okay with you, we'll take care of the prayer right now. Would you pray with me?' I told him yes, and he turned to the staff that remained in the office and hand motioned the folks to step back or leave. He said, 'Bruce and I would like some private time for a prayer.'
"As they left he turned back to me and took my hands in his. I was prepared to do a traditional prayer stance - standing with each other with heads bowed. Instead, he reached for my head with his right hand and, pulling gently forward, he placed my head on his shoulder.
"With his left arm on my midback, he pulled me to him in a prayerful embrace. He started to pray softly. I started to cry. He continued his prayer for Loretta and for God's perfect will to be done. I cried some more. My body shook a bit as I cried, and he just held tighter. He closed by asking God's blessing on Loretta and the family during the coming months."
John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .
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