President H.W. Bush and Garth Brooks by Al Sikes

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Garth Brooks performing for 85,000 at Notre Dame Football stadium in a cold rain was quite remarkable. It was carried by CBS last Sunday night.  I watched, in part, because Brooks had a special relationship with President George H.W. Bush. My wife and I last saw the President at his Presidential Library in 2014, the 25th Anniversary of the beginning of his term. I served in his Administration.

The reunion was quite interesting and in true Bush-style no time was spent critiquing the President then in office, Barack Obama. There was some talk about the possibility of Jeb Bush running for President, but mostly a bunch of out-of-power persons discussing what worked and didn’t.

The celebratory centerpiece was a birthday party for the President under a tent on the grounds of the Bush Presidential Library located on the Texas A&M campus. The co-star of the evening turned out to be a surprise, Garth Brooks. He had flown in to be with the President. What a privilege; it was warm, not raining and we were feet from the stage. Brooks was sensational as he brought us to our feet with Friends in Low Places and showed loving warmth toward the President and Mrs. Bush, by then in wheel chairs.

My wife and I had an earlier Garth Brooks sighting. He performed for hundreds of thousands in Central Park in New York just several blocks from where we lived. We watched from our window on the 14th floor. Two days before we were in the Park walking our dogs when a couple from Alabama, carrying a cooler and other gear, asked where the Brooks concert was to be performed. They intended to camp out for two days to get the best seats. Remarkable.

Music is often discounted as a cultural influence. We do that at our risk. While I am not familiar with a lot of Brooks’ music, I particularly like the song he credits with being his favorite, Enjoy The Dance.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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