Happy Birthday President George H. W. Bush

phile photo WROC

Section of the Berlin Wall, the atrium of the Bausch + Lomb Building. File Photo, WROC TV

Yesterday former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 94th birthday. While Bush was only a one term President, time and events have amplified his foreign policy successes. Bush presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — both accomplished without a shot being fired.

For decades, Rochestarians were reminded of these bloodless historical events by part of the Berlin Wall displayed in the atrium of the Bausch + Lomb Building.

And, Bush gathered an international coalition to invade Iraq in Gulf War I.  However, unlike the grievous strategic error of his son in Gulf War II, George H. W. Bush chose to leave Hussein in quarantined power rather than unleash unintended consequences.

Although I didn’t vote for Bush in any of his four national candidacies (1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992), I certainly would have preferred him over the current White House occupant

As seen in The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Donald Trump, Bush visited Rochester three times: in 1980 as vice presidential candidate, in 1984 as vice president, and (BELOW) when president for an extended visit in 1989 to Wilson Magnet High School.

27 years ago today when President George H. W. Bush visited Wilson Magnet High School

• May 22, 2015

As I crisscross the district, I am always intrigued and surprised by the rich history I find, sometimes hidden, within our buildings. For example, who knew that a chalkboard signed on May 18th 1989 by President George H.W. Bush is kept in a storage room in the basement of Wilson?

As the story goes, President Bush read an article in US News and World Reports about the successes of the Wilson Magnet High School. As part of a trip to Rochester, Bush chose to see Wilson to offer praise, becoming the only sitting or former President to visit a school in the RCSD.

When recently at Wilson, I inquired further. A few veteran teachers retold anecdotes, particularly that Bush had signed a chalkboard still kept somewhere in the school. With the help of the janitor, we tracked it down, now covered in plexiglass and well preserved. In another storage room, I was shown a photo of Bush writing on a poster board with then Principal Suzanne Johnston. What finds!


Chalkboard signed by President Bush

Intrigued, I visited Principal Johnston at Mercy High School where she is now President. She showed me bulging files and binders filled with photos, invitations, news clippings, follow up holiday cards, and other memorabilia chronicling the trip. She even has some golf balls Bush sent as a thank you gift after he learned her husband was an avid golfer.

Here, I’ll let Johnston tell the story:

The advance team, numbering 10, came 5 days early to prepare for the visit – logistics, phone lines, security, emergency blood supply, etc. They went out of their way to meet with students who had a stream of questions

When we began planning the visit, the advance team envisioned the President meeting with a small group of leaders and a handful of students. After considerable discussion, the President met with 12 members of the faculty, toured a computer programming class that was in session, and then ended in the gym for an academic pep rally honoring over 500 honor roll students.


Principal Johnson with President Bush 5/18/89

The President’s first question to me was “Do you by any chance have a stick of gum?” He also gave me sets of autographed golf balls for my husband and father after asking about my own success with golf – I don’t! At the end of the pep rally he said, “I think your students would enjoy seeing you kissed on the cheek, OK?” and he did!

President Bush’s final words were, “I won’t forget this visit.” I certainly will not.Wilson-in-print-page-0

sandra 1NOTE: Today former Brighton Town Supervisor Sandra sandra 2Frankel wrote:

I attended President Bush’s speech at Kodak on May 18, 1989, representing the Monroe County School Boards Association (and served on the Monroe #1 BOCES and Brighton Boards of Education). Bush spoke about the importance of education to business leaders at that meeting.

And attendees got some serious paperweights:


The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Donald Trump