CHARLES CITY, Va. – President Bush on Monday honored acts of everyday decency and supreme sacrifice, part of a Thanksgiving tribute like none he had done before.
Bush devoted his day to people who, as he put it, serve a cause larger than themselves – police, firefighters, teachers and citizens who become heroes in times of crisis.
He singled out three people for recognition: Jeremy Hernandez, who rescued children from a school bus at the scene of a massive bridge collapse in Minneapolis; Doris Hicks, an inspirational school principal in New Orleans’ devastated Ninth Ward; and Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who died trying to save his students during the Virginia Tech massacre.
“These stories remind us that our nation’s greatest strength is the decency and compassion of our people,” Bush said at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Va.
“As we count our many blessings, I encourage all Americans to show their thanks by giving back,” said Bush, who also toured a food bank that serves a huge swath of Virginia.
This is not how the White House usually hails Thanksgiving. Never in his presidency had Bush devoted a speech to the holiday, let alone hours of choreographed travel.
The typical tribute is a proclamation, a radio address and a turkey pardon in the Rose Garden – a ceremony that has produced its share of silly moments. This time, Bush opted for events that allowed him, in a very public way, to honor those who have made a mark on him.
The soft theme of the day’s events also aimed to put Bush in a positive light at a time when the country is in a disapproving mood, soured by war and Washington politics. There was not a single biting mention of Congress in his speech, a rarity for Bush these days.