President George H. W. and Barbara Bush came to Fredericksburg
on March 3, 1993 we were told not to get too excited about it. We
would see them in passing, for a few seconds at most, from the neck
up, in the backseat of a limo.
Getting up close and personal with the former President and First
Lady was out of the question. No exceptions.
Security was as tight as a Yeti cooler - except for one detail.
The Secret Service forgot to brief Ms. Parker's class.
Some of you may remember that was right after Bush 41 made all those
comments about a certain green stalky vegetable.
It began at a Florida fundraiser with a bad joke.
"I've made it very clear how I feel about raising taxes," the President
said. He paused for dramatic effect. "I'd rather have broccoli for
At the time America was in a fitness phase, and not everyone was
happy about it. Us pizza and donut guys were looking frantically
for relief from the kale and carrot juice crowd.
Whether or not you agreed with his politics, George H. W. Bush was
a pretty regular guy. Like many of us, he preferred a hotdog and
a beer to a cauliflower and goat cheese sandwich with a soy milk
And this president's opinion had clout. When President Bush expressed
a preference for pork rinds, sales of that great southern delicacy
jumped 11 percent.
George H. W. Bush was not one to dodge an unpleasant subject. When
pressed about the broccoli business, the president gave it to us
stalk and all.
"I do not like broccoli," he confessed, "and I haven't liked it
since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. Well, I'm
President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more
"By golly I'm the President," he said raising his fist in the air.
"No more broccoli."
There was a Breaking News flash on CNN.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee threw up his hands.
"There goes the broccoli vote."
Bush immediately issued an Executive Order outlawing broccoli at
the White House and aboard Air Force One. The Democrats questioned
the legality of the order saying it was "in the twilight zone of
dubious constitutional legitimacy."
"The president feels about taxes the same way he feels about broccoli,"
said an Arizona congressman when arguing against a tax bill. "You
can put it on the table in front of him, but he's not going to eat
Then Bill Clinton beat George H. W. Bush in the 1992 presidential
election. Experts are still analyzing the role of broccoli in that
contest. They've written several thick books about it.
and Barbara Bush, out of office for just 5 weeks, came to Fredericksburg
in March 1993 for a private view of the Gallery of the Pacific War
at the Nimitz
Museum. Plans were already underway to name it after President
Bush, a navy pilot in World
Their jet landed at Louis Schreiner Field in Kerrville
at 9:20 that morning. At 10am their motorcade left for Fredericksburg.
It was a cloudy day as I remember. A line of identical black cars
rolled into town on the Kerrville Highway and slowly turned right
on Main Street. All eyes strained to see which one George and Barbara
Bush were in.
Suddenly there they were, waving to the people on both sides of
Then something in the crowd caught Barbara's eye. George saw it
too. A sign made by elementary school students that read "Out With
Broccoli - In With Sauerkraut."
George told the driver to stop. Then George and Barbara got out
of the car to mingle with the sign makers in Ms. Parker's class.
The Secret Service scrambled. Those guys don't like surprises. The
rest of us had the thrill of a lifetime.
Words are powerful. Just ask George H. W. Bush.
He once made
a bad joke about a vegetable.
stalked him ever since.