Bush had secret pen pal: A boy in the Philippines
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.
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.