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Barnstorming with President Bush

Last week when I got the email that President George W. Bush was visiting Alabama, I really didn't think about it.

Who would have thought that a week later I would be standing in a line with approximately 5,000 other people slowly wrapping our way around the Auburn University Montgomery campus to get in to listen the leader of the free world discuss his plan to save Social Security.

But there we were seeing him in living, breathing color.

Although I profess some Democratic beliefs, I am still one of the people who will always respect the presidency.

It is much like the old adage, "don't hate the player, hate the game."

Having lived in close proximity to former Pres. Jimmy Carter for a while, I know about the ways of the Secret Service or I thought I did until I saw the security detail surrounding Bush.

It is vastly different, but I guess it should be since Carter is in the past and "W" is the sitting president.

There is something awe inspiring when you hear the words, Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States."

Then suddenly you see a movement and the Secret Service take up very visible position and there he is.

I found myself applauding with the other 4,999 people and listening intently.

I guess for years now I've listened to the president in sound bites.

He turned out to be rather comical in the way that he poked fun at himself.

One thing he said was that he would be retirement age in 2008, and then with a grin, he said that seemed like a coincidence.

Then just as quickly as it began, everything was over and the president was leaving the building.

Once I got to the lobby again, I found myself standing amongst colonels and admirals, former governors and many others.

We were all waiting together for the world's most powerful man to leave the building.

When the doors opened, I said to myself, "'W' has left the building."

As I exited out I looked to my left and there was the famous presidential motorcade leaving the AUM campus. I just stopped and watched as the big, black limousine with the presidential seal pulled away.

I realized when talking to others on Friday that by simply being in the same building with him, I had the experience of a lifetime. There is a real chance that I'll never have an opportunity to be that close to an American president again.

For the time we all stood in line and the time we spent listening to him speak, we were not Republicans or Democrats, but rather, we were Americans.

We were there to listen to our leader despite our political differences.

So again, I'll never forget what I did on Thursday, March 10, 2005 because on that day I spent 45 minutes with our president and it was truly an awe-inspiring afternoon.

Jay Thomas is managing editor of the Greenville Advocate and can reached at 383-9302, ext. 136 or via email at jay.thomas@greenvilleadvocate.com.