Jesse Willms: Meeting and Talking with George W. Bush
Posted by Jesse Willms on November 26, 2010
The road that brought me to become a philanthropist began earlier this year, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
Just after the New Year, I was contacted by a friend of mine who works for the PDS Group who invited me to a networking event he was helping to organize. I’ve always thought that it is very important in business to network, so of course I agreed right away and marked the date, January 20th on my calendar. What I didn’t know is that this was going to be an incredibly unique experience and opportunity. This is because the guest of honor was going to be former U.S. President George W. Bush. Let me tell you, it was a real honor to meet the former leader of the free world.
Obviously, I was a bit nervous when I got there and realized that he was part of the event. I haven’t exactly met a lot of famous people in my life and didn’t think he’d give me the time of day. But, I was wrong. After I relaxed, my friend came over to me and offered to introduce me to President Bush. I assumed that he would just give me a handshake and then move on, but that wasn’t the case. Bush was incredibly friendly and had a kind of charisma that I’ve never encountered before or since. He had a unique talent where he would talk to everyone in the room and then at the end of the night when there was photo opportunities, he would remember something about every single person.
We talked about what it was like to run a business. When I asked him what the most important thing a businessman can do is, he replied “give back to your community and make a difference.” He said that is why he ran for governor and then president when he could have simply become a rich businessman. That conversation got me thinking. Here I had been in the presence of great man who was both thoughtful and courageous. He had the nerve and honor to sacrifice himself and dedicate his time to serve his country out of the goodness of his heart and the courage of his convictions.
At the time, I didn’t know what I could do to take his advice and use it in my life. I did know that I wanted to give back to my community as well and follow his example and become a respected leader. Over time, his words of wisdom began to take root in my mind. I think that’s why I was ready to become a philanthropist a few months later when Warren Buffet and Bill Gates challenged entrepreneurs like me to do so.
Thank you, Mr. Bush; it was a pleasure to meet you.