President Bush, Lucas Boyce and an unforgettable lesson in character

Editor's note: The following column is excerpted from Dana Perino's new book, "And the Good News Is...: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side" now available in paperback with new stories of behind-the-scenes moments with President George W. Bush.

Lucas Boyce was born six weeks premature and weighed just over four pounds. His mother was a young teen who struggled with substance abuse and would sell her body to support her habit. That’s how Lucas was conceived. It was a miracle he lived to be born. And his life has been a miracle, too. At ten days old, Lucas was sent to the foster-care home of Dorothy Boyce. Dorothy, a white woman from the Midwest, took care of over forty foster-care children over fifteen years. Lucas says his mother is someone who doesn’t see color—she’s not color blind; she actually just can’t see anyone’s skin color. She just sees the person.

Dorothy adopted six of the children and had four of her own. At one point she was the single mother of eleven foster-care and adopted children. She married when Lucas was in elementary school, and she became the stepmother of her husband’s three girls, too.

To keep the children focused, Lucas says that his mom taught them to believe in what was possible even when challenges seemed insurmountable. She encouraged them to reach for their goals even if they didn’t seem plausible. Little did she know that Lucas would one day work at the White House for President George W. Bush.

Fast-forward to March 2002, when Lucas, as one of the interns in the Office of Presidential Personnel, was invited to the South Lawn of the White House as part of a photo opportunity in support of volunteer service. After the photo, Lucas stepped aside and, as he did, the president gestured to him and said, “Come on, let’s get a picture,” and he called over his official photographer, Eric Draper.

Overcome with excitement, Lucas threw his arm around the president in kind of a brotherly hug. An obviously bold move and, he thought, probably a breach of protocol, but, being a rookie, he didn’t know any better.

The next day Lucas’s boss, Ed Moy, came back to their office and said, “So, you made a real impression on the president,” and immediately Lucas got a sinking feeling that he’d gotten too chummy with the president and that his internship was over.

He began to apologize, but Ed said that after the meeting the president called him over to his desk and said, “Hey, I met this kid on the South Lawn yesterday. He said he works for you. What’s his name again?”

Moy said, “Lucas Boyce.”

“Yeah, well, I really enjoyed meeting him.”

Moy shot back, “Probably not as much as he enjoyed meeting you, sir.”

The president laughed and asked, “What’s his story?” Moy told him a little bit about Lucas and his background, and the president said, “Well, what can we do for him? Let’s bring him onboard.”

And that was how Lucas got his start: from a random chance encounter with the president on the South Lawn of the White House. Lucas said from that he learned that a measure of someone’s character is how they treat people who can do nothing for them.

“George W. Bush didn’t have to do anything for me. I wasn’t anybody special, yet he took the time to chat, had a personal photo taken, and then asked his staff to help me out the next day. I was of no value to him, yet he influenced my life in more ways than I’d ever be able to repay,” Lucas said.

Lucas went on to work on the president’s reelection campaign and then at the White House in a number of different roles. A few years after his first encounter, he was on his first trip on Air Force

One and made the innocent mistake of sitting in the president’s chair in the conference room. When the president walked in and looked at him, then at his chair, then back at Lucas, and gave him a little smile, Lucas leaped out of the chair, full of apologies.

“What the heck are you doing in my chair?” the president barked, jokingly. Lucas kept apologizing but the president said,

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not staying. I was just stopping by.” Then he gave Lucas that look again, which of course initiated a fresh round of “I’m so sorry, sir!”

“Really. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it, man,” Bush said. He paused. “It’s just the president’s chair.” The aides in the room burst into laughter. The president started laughing as well. Lucas wasn’t sure whether to laugh or apologize again. The next day, Lucas had an opportunity to introduce his parents to the president for the first time at a fund-raising event in his hometown of Kansas City. Lucas found his parents in line to meet the president. He gave them a big hug and then proceeded to tell them to not embarrass him.

“Dad, straighten your tie. Mom, you look great. No, your lipstick is not smudging. It’s perfect. Yes. Your hair is perfect, too. Just don’t embarrass me!” He gave them another hug and had started to walk away when White House advance director Jason Recher turned Lucas around and pushed him back toward them.

“Introduce your parents to the president,” Jason said.

Lucas said his heart started beating a little bit faster. He felt a sense of pride to be able to introduce his mom to the commander-inchief, but he was unprepared. He stepped forward and, at a loss for anything profound to say, said, “Mr. President, this is my mom and dad, Dorothy and Larry Boyce.”

The president got this big smile on his face as he shook their hands. Lucas wondered if President Bush had ever considered that his parents were a different color than Lucas was.

After the photo, the president draped his arms around Lucas’s parents, pulling them closer for a quick chat.

“Your son is doing a fantastic job for us and you should be proud of how he turned out. You did a great job in raising him,” the president said.

Then he gave Lucas one of his sideways smiles and said, “The only thing about your son is . . . well, he likes to sit in my seat on Air Force One.”

Lucas looked on sheepishly as his parents laughed.

Then the president gave him a wink and said, “Just kiddin’.”

Lucas said he’ll never forget that moment or the lesson of that trip that built on his first encounter with President Bush: your character is also measured by how you treat those who dare to sit in your chair.

From the book AND THE GOOD NEWS IS…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side. Copyright (c) 2016 by Dana Perino. Reprinted by permission of Twelve/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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