HELENA – This week, we shared with you Montana Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney’s recollection of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 visit to Montana to celebrate the state’s centennial.
The meeting took place before the president’s speech and Cooney brought his oldest son, Ryan, just five years old at the time.
Ryan says the meeting is one of his most vivid memories from early childhood.
“This man walked in the room and started shaking hands and that’s when my jaw dropped and I realized wow, this is the President of the United States,” says Ryan. “And I still very clearly remember shaking his hand and staring up at him. He asked me a few questions and I just kind of nodded in awe.”
Ryan says not long after that, he wrote the president a note and mailed him a picture of Air Force One.
And he got a response.
He has both the letter and the picture of their handshake framed in his classroom.
Ryan is a government teacher at PAL, the Project for Alternative Learning, in Helena.
“I’ve been sharing the picture with my students and sharing my memories,” he explains. “And (meeting President Bush) really brought the Presidency down to earth for me and has given me a great appreciation for American government and I teach government, so obviously it had an influence.”
Ryan says his students have been learning about Bush’s presidency, and his career prior to the presidency, all week.
Reporting by Melissa Jensen for MTN News