Bush had se­cret pen pal: A boy in the Philip­pines

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Rick Noack

When 77-year old “G. Walker” reached out to Filipino boy Tim­o­thy for the first time in Jan­uary 2002, his mes­sage­was sim­ple: “I want to be your new pen pal,” the man who iden­ti­fied him­self as a Texas res­i­dent wrote.

“I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you al­ready. I live in Texas — I will write you from time to time — Good Luck. G. Walker,” the man ended his first of many let­ters, ac­cord­ing to copies non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Com­pas­sion In­ter­na­tional shared with­CNN.

For the next decade, the man call­ing him­selfWalker spon­sored some of the boy’s ed­u­ca­tion and meals, with­out ever re­veal­ing his true iden­tity.

In some of the let­ters, he dropped sub­tle ref­er­ences that may have hinted at his true iden­tity, for in­stance writ­ing that “I got to go to the WhiteHouse at Christ­mas time.”

But when Tim­o­thy was told af­ter grad­u­at­ing who G. Walker re­ally was — for­mer U. S. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush — he was stunned, ac­cord­ing to the char­ity.

JimMcGrath, the White House spokesman un­der Bush, con­firmed the let­ters’ au­then­tic­ity toCNN.

“Not the least bit sur­prised,” McGrath wrote on Twit­ter, even though he said that he had not pre­vi­ously been aware of the spon­sor­ship.

The rev­e­la­tion matches the ded­i­ca­tion of a for­mer pres­i­dent whose “val­ues and ethics seem cen­turies re­moved from­to­day’s acrid po­lit­i­cal cul­ture,” as The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Karen Tu­mul­ty­wrote in an obit­u­ary af­ter Bush’s death in Novem­ber.

Less no­ticed, 2018’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture has led to a re­vival of pro­grams like the one Bush sup­ported af­ter 2001. Pen pals are once again on the rise, as many Amer­i­cans and ci­ti­zens of oth­er­wealthy coun­tries re­sort to them as a way to protest some of the neg­a­tive sen­ti­ments to­ward out­siders that have made their way into the main­stream.

When fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions stunned Amer­i­cans ear­lier this year, pen pal pro­grams across the coun­try no­ticed a surge in new par­tic­i­pants.

Vari­a­tions have also ap­peared in Euro­pean coun­tries, in­clud­ing in France where an NGO col­lected 400 let­ters from refugees de­scrib­ing their lives that were col­lected in an “En­cy­clo­pe­dia of mi­gra­tion” and made ac­ces­si­ble to read­ers.

Not all let­ters sent to the United States or Europe were meant to only be read by their ad­dressees, how­ever.

One Syr­ian refugee child, Bana Alabed, gained a broad au­di­ence two years agowhen­she tweeted from the war-rav­aged city of Aleppo, be­fore es­cap­ing to Tur­key with her fam­ily.

Ad­dress­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in a letter last year, she wrote that “I couldn’t play in Aleppo, it was the city of death.”

“If you prom­ise me you will do some­thing for the chil­dren of Syria, I am al­ready your new friend,” the then-7 year-old­wrote.

COM­PAS­SION IN­TER­NA­TIONAL

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush spon­sored Tim­o­thy, then 7, for 10 years. Above, a photo of Tim­o­thy with a letter he sent to his pen pal. The 41st pres­i­dent died last month.

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