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A group of Texas fourth-graders got a personal lesson about the nation’s 41st president during their field trip this week to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Former President George H.W. Bush surprised the group when an aide brought him in on his wheelchair while the group was waiting for their tour to begin.
"I was really shocked that he was there," said 10-year-old Mia Gloria, whose mother served as a chaperone on the trip. "I was turned around, so my mom was like, 'Oh my gosh, it's President George Bush.'"
Mia, who almost didn't make the trip because she had injured her knee over the weekend, used a wheelchair during the visit and later posed next to the president during a group photo.
Jayden Rangel said he was excited about seeing his first president in the flesh.
"It was amazing seeing the president because the only president I’ve seen is Barack Obama [on TV]," he said.
Kayla Ogden, one of the fourth-grade teachers from Stuchbery Elementary School in Houston, said Bush's appearance caught everyone off guard.
"I think the teachers and the adults were more excited than the kids. We were acting like little kids running around with our cameras and our phones," she said.
Ogden said Bush's aide asked the children questions about their favorite Christmas carols and then encouraged them to sing “Jingle Bells” for everyone. He then suggested everyone pose for a picture.
"When we thanked him, the aide said 'I think he enjoyed it more than you all did,'" she said. "That can’t possibly be true, but we were very honored."
The former president has made fewer visits to the facility in recent years as various health problems have limited his mobility, said David Anaya, the library’s marketing and communication director.
“We’ve had him here for a couple of issue forums and a book signing, but this was a surprise to a lot of people,” Anaya said.
Kristin Wallis, Stuchbery's assistant principal, said the museum's docents and volunteers told her the same thing.
"They were as excited as we were. One person said he's been there seven years and has never seen him," she said. "And one of the tour guides said she's never seen him interact with a school tour before."
But Wallis said she's most pleased by the impact Bush's visit may play on the children in their future.
"It just really showed the students that while he is the former president of the United States, he’s also a man, and he’s a man from our very own home town," she said. "It shows that maybe they, too, can grow up to be the president of the United States."
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