What is a US President Really Like?

What is a US President Really Like?

Will Hamilton, Staff writer

On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, I had the amazing opportunity to meet and sing for Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush at the funeral of former Georgia Governor and Senator Zell Miller. The occasion was not one of excitement; it was one of reverence and remembrance. But despite the formality of the event, it was still an amazing experience to have a chance to talk to three former US Presidents. All three were close friends and political allies of Miller’s, and spoke words of remembrance about him and the admiration they all shared for him.

The idea of meeting three presidents in the span of one hour is crazy in my mind. A President seems larger than life; they seem like something we hear and see about all the time but could never even come close to actually seeing in person. And I guess what I never realized is that, just like any of us, a US President still is just a normal human being. Sure, they are the leaders of the free world and (most of the time) are some of the smartest people in the world. They have a list of responsibilities that take a very special type of person to be able to carry out effectively. But they still are just people.

What surprised me most about them once I began to notice their humanity was how they could set aside their politics and how humorous and casual they could be. Clinton and Bush were both raised in the church and knew many of the hymns by heart. At one point during the service, I saw them standing side by side singing. Bush must have hit a wrong note, because Clinton playfully shoved him with his elbow like a little boy would do to a friend.

Jimmy Carter, even at age 93, still was cracking jokes. He humorously admitted that he had been in New York City up until only a few hours ago, and had learned that morning he was invited to speak in Miller’s funeral. He had written his speech on the plane ride to Atlanta. Bush also made a few comedic remarks about both his memories with Miller and his life in politics. At one point, he mentioned how Miller had left his office as governor with an approval rating over 80%. He then went on to make a joke directed toward his own presidency about how “from his own experience as a politician”, having an approval rating that high was not common.

But one other thing stood out above the humor and the casual, playful attitude they shared, and it was perhaps the most humanizing thing any of them did. It would seem typical for a person to cry at a funeral. But I could not imagine a President crying for anything. They seem invincible and too brave and powerful to cry. But like I said, Presidents are just people like any of us. And just like any person would, they cried quietly at points. Bill Clinton even shed tear when he was standing at the pulpit delivering his words of remembrance for Miller.

I am very lucky to have had the chance to meet three presidents all at once. It almost feels like it was too lucky. But regardless of that, it was an amazing and eye opening experience to see first hand that Presidents are not invincible and superior; they are just normal people like you and I.