George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States, addressed a receptive crowd first in Pineville at Louisiana College’s chapel service celebrating the institution’s 100th year, and then later at a luncheon at the Alexandria Riverfront Center.
PINEVILLE – George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United
States, addressed a receptive crowd first in Pineville at Louisiana
College’s chapel service celebrating the institution’s 100th year, and
then later at a luncheon at the Alexandria Riverfront Center.
Bush, greeted by a standing ovation, nodded and, indicating the crowd
should cease their applause and sit, showed he was ready to move beyond
His speech, laced with self-deprecating humor, commended Louisiana
College and its educators to “build a better future one mind at a time”
and encouraged students not to allow the current lack of cooperation
between political parties deter their interest in that field.
The Louisiana College Chorale heralded the event with “Who Will Be a
Witness?” and was joined later in the program by two other choirs, the
Louisiana Baptist Singing Women and the Louisiana Baptist Singing
Ministers, the latter comprised of music directors from across the
state, led by Curt Hamlett.
Accompanied by a small orchestra and a pianist, the choir belted out
“Worthy is the Lamb,” earning a standing ovation.
“It was wonderful,” said Ruth Jones, member of the Louisiana Baptist
Singing Women. “I had no idea that I would fall in love with the
president as much as I did. He is such a personable person.”
Bush complimented the choir several times, giving them the thumb’s up
sign on his way out of the luncheon where the choir sang again, Jones
“He is a wonderful man,” said Leah Williams of the former president.
“His speaking of the necessity of a faith-walk was so reaffirming.
“When he came in, he was singing with us,” said Williams, also a member
of the Louisiana Baptist Singing Women. Bush had entered the stage at
the chapel service mouthing the words to “Praise to the Lord Almighty.”
As they performed, Bush turned toward the choir, watching the faces of
those singing. Anna Hutto, who stood directly behind the president as
she sang, made eye contact with him.
“I just gave him a smile and kept right on singing,” she said.
LC student Lainey Branham, who led the chapel audience in the Pledge of
Allegiance, and Alumnus Becky Moore, who performed the “Star Spangled
Banner,” both were singled out by the former president when he kissed
each on the cheek, commending their performances. Freshman class
president Andrew Upshaw, who thanked the president for the scholarships
that would come to students because of his visit to campus, also
received a hearty handshake.
Lodwrick M. Cook, who grew up in Grand Cane and has been a friend of
Bush’s since the days of the latter’s vice presidency, gave the former
president’s formal introduction at the chapel service.
Cook, vice chairman of the Pacific Capital Group and former CEO and
chairman for ARCO, has worked closely with White House leaders on oil
and gas initiatives throughout his career, said Cook’s daughter, Sherri
Cook, a lawyer who lives and practices in Los Angeles.
When ARCO discovered a cleaner gas formula, Cook was instrumental in
giving it to the public, a move which got the attention of Bush, she
In a conversation after the event, Cook described his first meeting with Bush.
“I liked him immediately,” Cook said. “He genuinely likes people to feel a part of what is going on.
“His resume was unbelievable,” Cook said of Bush, which is why the
businessman decided to become active in Bush’s presidential
Other dignitaries in attendance included U.S. Senator David Vitter;
U.S. Representatives Rodney Alexander and Bobby Jindal; First Gentleman
Raymond S. Blanco; Mayor Clarence Fields of Pineville, and Mayor Ned
Randolph of Alexandria.
LC conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree on the former
president, and then Bush helped to present awards to distinguished
alumni: Joe Aguillard, Judy Aguillard, Sheila Johnson, and Johnny Jeans.
Later, at the Riverfront Center, hundreds gathered for the day’s
luncheon with the president, where the LC football team serenaded the
president with “I Want to be a Holy Man,” after which they presented
him with a football signed by the whole team.
Bush, during his exit, tossed the ball to football team member Tony Alonzo, who passed it back.
At the luncheon, Bush spoke of the importance of faith and traditional values.
“Our nation was built as a nation of faith,” Bush said. “And
places like LC … serve as … fortresses where timeless values
are defended … and practiced.”