Can We Meet the President Now?
By Maureen Blum
“Where is the President?” were the first words I heard from Joey (age 10) and Jesse Redpath (age 9), both beneficiaries of IJ’s victory defending the Illinois educational expenses tax credit, who came to our nation’s capital with their mom to meet President Bush at his request.
IJ clients Joey and Jesse Redpath, who benefit from the Illinois educational expenses tax credit, joined 15 other IJ clients inWashington to meet President Bush and encourage him to push for school choice.
When they saw the bus outside of their hotel, they asked, “Is the President on the bus?”
When we arrived at IJ for breakfast with the entire IJ team, they asked, “Is the President there? Is the President having breakfast with us?”
An enormous amount of anticipation, anxiety and gratitude was bottled up into these two wonderful young boys. Joey and Jesse had come to Washington to say thank you to President Bush and to give him gifts and cards of gratitude from their classmates for supporting school choice.
The visit was a great opportunity for both our clients and the IJ staff because it allowed our clients, who are on the front lines defending educational choice, to take their cause to the highest level while at the same time providing a great opportunity for the entire IJ team to meet the folks who give our jobs meaning.
The Redpath family joined several IJ school choice clients from Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin for an extraordinary opportunity to go to the White House. Joined by other school choice activists from across the country, including those from the American Education Reform Foundation, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Center for Education Reform, Children First America, and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, IJ clients illustrated their support for school choice and shared their personal stories that school choice works. The audience with the President helped raise awareness that school choice is a parental right with a constituency.
When the President completed his uplifting remarks, he mingled throughout the crowd shaking hands and posing for pictures. This was the opportunity the Redpath boys had dreamed of. Their real-life game of “I Spy” was over. Secret Service agents found their enthusiasm contagious and positioned them near the door where the President was to exit. What could only have been a two or three minute wait for the President to exit seemed like an eternity for the boys. They wanted to take off and run after the President, and we had to keep them close. Finally the moment came almost as if it was scripted into the official schedule and line of protocol: President Bush walked directly to them, put his hands on their shoulders and said hello.
Our meeting with the President reminded me of what is great about our nation: the power to rule, the power to change, the power to improve always comes from one source: the people. Even the littlest ones.
Maureen Blum is IJ’s Director of Outreach Programs.