From the News, Memoir, Uncategorized

That Time I worked for the President

At this time of the American Presidential Inauguration, and since the hospitalization of George H.W. and Barbara Bush, I have been reminiscing about the privilege I had to work as the communications director for the Bush ‘41 Presidential Inauguration.


I remember standing on the lawn of the flag-draped U.S. Capitol when he said he wanted his first official act as President to be offering a prayer for the nation.

With cameras rolling and the world watching, he asked God to make us strong to do his work and to yield to his will. He asked that we write on our hearts the words: “Use power to help people.”

That message resonated with Americans in 1989.

It resonates with me today.

140329064024-george-bush-10-horizontal-large-galleryOrganizing a Presidential inauguration is a mammoth job. From the day after the election, you have only a few short months to pull off one of the world’s most momentous events.

For those working for the George HW Bush inauguration, after the election in 1988, it meant transforming an old government warehouse into a professional office building in a matter of days – literally building walls, bringing in computers, desks, tables, phone systems – everything from the ground up, all geared toward ensuring the “peaceful transition of Presidential power” that is so uniquely American.

Working on the Presidential Inauguration was the most exhausting and intense professional experience of my life, but it gave me some cherished memories including:

  • Dancing at an Inaugural ball with my dad. My dad was a true-blue Utahn who believed the only clothes a man needed were flannel-shirts, Levi Strauss, boots, and a ball cap. He hated crowds, big cities, and nonsensical fuss of any kind. But, he flew to Washington, dressed up for one event after another, and even donned a tuxedo for an inaugural ball. He spun me around the dance floor like a pro. It was an unforgettable night for me, especially since he died a couple years later.
  • Sitting in the press box with President and Mrs. Bush to watch the inaugural parade. Honestly, even though it was one of the great honors of my life, I could barely keep my eyes open.
  • Having a gold “All Access” pass to every blocked off street, and every event going on in Washington during what is surely one of the grandest times in that beautiful city.
  • Going to a small party at the White House with the Bushes just after they moved in. I wrote in my journal about that event, “Doug kept whispering ‘is this really happening? Are we actually in the same room with the President and the First Lady? Are we seriously going to meet them? Pinch me and let me know this is really happening.’” I felt the same way.

stocksnap_rfky6o3x2gWhen we went through the receiving line, I introduced myself as the communications director, and he said, “Oh, well you certainly did an excellent job of communicating. We couldn’t have been happier.”

He then addressed the group of exhausted staff, thanked everyone for their work, and said, “There is an interesting mood in this room. I wouldn’t call it one of irritability, but there is certainly a tension from long hours and sleepless nights.”

Barbara leaned over to whisper something in his ear. He smiled, and then said, “Please be careful not to step on any of our grandchildren.”

That was an appropriate warning because there were children running around everywhere in the White House. The family definitely felt at home there. In fact, one of the Bush sons came into the reception wearing a casual jogging suit. I now wonder which one of the sons we saw that day…

As the President mingled with everyone in the room, he approached Doug and me, and stopped to visit. He took my hand in his, and held it throughout our conversation, which I thought was so warm and personable.

He asked to know more about us. I told him we were married just a few days before I took the job at the inauguration and that there was an article in Utah’s Deseret News that said immediately after our honeymoon, I left my husband for another man: George Herbert Walker Bush. The President laughed, and said to Doug, “You can have her back now on one condition: That we can call her back once in awhile because we need her energy.”

Meeting the President left an indelible impression on my life. I’ve always had great respect for him. So, on this 45th inauguration, I reflect on the 41st, and the President who called for “a kinder, gentler” America, and a man that prayed for the nation as his first official act as our great leader.


At the end of his inaugural address, he said, “I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so, today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.”

A new breeze has blown, a page has been turned, and a new American story will unfold again. And I want to believe his words are as true today as they were in 1989 when he said, “There is much to do. And tomorrow the work begins…I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead…Our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God’s love is truly boundless.”

Thank you George HW Bush for that beautiful perspective. May it still ring true.

Happy Inauguration Day America.




Community, From the News, Uncategorized

Refugee Relief — No More Stranger

Just reading and watching stories about the millions of refugees makes my heart hurt.

So when I heard our Church leaders focus on it in our General Conference recently, my heart rejoiced.

A friend texted me during Elder Patrick Kearon’s talk and said, “I just LOVE this new emphasis on refugees in the church! So much need. So Christian. Makes me proud of my church!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Sixty million refugees is unfathomable. 



It’s one thing to watch the news and read the stories about groups of people fleeing a country because of war or persecution. It’s another to know and try to understand their individual stories.

My Mormon history is full of stories of my ancestors being driven out of their homes by people who opposed their religious views. 

For me, personally, I can hear references to the persecution experienced by the Mormons in the 1800s and feel quite removed from it, but it becomes a lot more real when I consider the impact that persecution had on my family.

In 1844, Mormons built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois into a prosperous and beautiful city. But, people worried about the political and economic power being amassed by this growing group of people.

This led to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother, Hyrum being wrongly accused of treason and sent to jail.

Both were murdered by angry mobs that stormed the jail.

Hyrum was my great, great, great grandfather.

Hyrum and Joseph Smith

He was shot in the face and killed by a bullet that was fired through the door of the jail.

I cannot forget the stories of how his wife, Mary Fielding, took the news or how his three-year-old daughter, Martha Ann, my great, great grandmother remembered being wrapped in a blanket and carried to see her dead father and uncle.

Because of the continued violence, Mary and her children were forced to leave Nauvoo.

Martha Ann said, “We left our home just as it was, our furniture, and the fruit trees hanging full of rosy cheeked peaches and apples. We bid good-bye to the loved home that reminded us of our beloved father everywhere we turned.”

This is not unlike what is happening across the world.

Depiction of Mary Fielding crossing the Plains

Mary Fielding and her children crossed the Mississippi River and huddled around a campfire on the bank of the river as they listened to the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo.

Maybe it’s that heritage that makes me so sympathetic to the plight of today’s refugees.


One of our leaders, Linda K. Burton, recited the history of the LDS women’s organization, called The Relief Society, saying it was organized “to do something extraordinary.” She conveyed the message that we are expected, as members of the Church, to do the extraordinary by answering the pressing calls to help.

Refugee Camp

In response to that reminder, church members immediately searched for ways to help.

This week, in my role as a public affairs representative for the Church, I met with local leaders of Catholic Charities, an organization that is doing amazing work to help the refugees.

They told us they were a bit overwhelmed with the calls from Mormons, asking what they could do to help. “A good problem to have,” they agreed.

I think we were all moved by Linda Burton’s question, “What if their story were my story?”

In many ways, the stories of today’s refugees are our stories. Many of us have stories in our families and our cultures of people fleeing their homes to escape war and religious persecution.

And, we all have a responsibility to help.

I loved Elder Patrick Kearon’s comment, “This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us.”

I hope this moment will help define me in a positive and powerful way as a disciple of Jesus Christ who responds to the call to serve.

How will it define you?

In the Washington, D.C. area, you can find out how to help here and here.

To listen to Elder Kearon’s talk click here.



Community, From the News

There’s a kind of hush…

Remember the old Carpenters’ song, “Kind of Hush?”

If you weren’t alive when it was released in 1976, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I’ve thought of the lyrics every time I’ve stepped outside during the Blizzard of 2016.


 “There’s a kind of hush all over the world tonight…”

This morning I went out to hunt for the Washington Post. (Wishful thinking.)

My neighbor was outside and we stood in the middle of the road in the bright sunshine, surveying the beauty around us, and enjoying the silence, the hushed stillness.

No high school kids bustling to school.

No UPS trucks, school buses, dogs barking.

No people rushing off to work.

No cars on the busy roads surrounding our neighborhood.

No planes flying in and out of Dulles airport.

Just a beautiful hushed silence.

We watched a lot of news over the last week, anticipating the storm and hearing all the warnings about this “life-threatening storm,” this “state of emergency,” this “historic blizzard.”

We joined the rest of the DC metro area in rushing to the grocery store and Costco for supplies.

Only a smattering of carts were left in front of the store and grocery store shelves were being quickly depleted.

Thanks to Cynthia Hall-Tipping for this photo of the empty shelves at Trader Joes

We didn’t even really need anything there.

We just felt obligated to be part of the storm prep madness and excitement.

We bought bread and milk because that’s what you do before a storm here.
Most important, Doug got the snowblower ready — pumped up the tires, filled it with gas, and positioned it in the garage to be ready for the big dig-out.

We made a big pot of chili, charged all our devices, and pulled out the flashlights in case of a power outage.

And then it came.

Just as predicted, it started at 12:30 p .m. Friday and didn’t stop until about 10 p.m. Saturday.

Winds gusting, snow falling, everything being covered in heavy snow.

We ended up with 33″ on our deck.

This was before the total hit 33 inches

That’s some serious snow.

We followed the newscasters and safety officials’ pleas to stay off the roads and hunker down at home.

And, we enjoyed every minute of it.

Mostly because we never lost power. Thank you for that tender mercy.

It might have been dangerous and epic, but inside our home, it was peaceful.

We had good books, old movies and lots phone calls and texting with friends and family who indulged us as we talked about the massive amounts of snow piling up on our deck.

Outside our home, in our neighborhood, it was peaceful too.

Neighbors were helping neighbors, and posting pictures on our Facebook page of the beauty around us.
Our reliable snow removal crews were out doing a terrific job of cleaning up our streets all weekend.
We formed a neighborhood brigade to dig out a neighbor whose husband is out of the country.

We even had a last-minute pot luck dinner with a few of our neighbors , sharing all our different pots of soup.

Now, the storm has passed.

The big melt begins.

We are slowly getting back to the business of living.

Hurrying to all the important places we have to go.

Keeping up with our busy, schedules.

Feeling more rushed, stressed and anxious than we like.

And waving quickly as we pass each other  in the neighborhood on our way to do all Our Important Stuff.

But we need to relish this last weekend when we had the gift of time to help each other, reconnect, slow down, and appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

She holds the trump card.

She always wins.

And maybe there’s method to Mother Nature’s madness.

She can stop the most powerful cities in the world, control the oceans, the skies, the very world that holds us at its mercy.

With one big storm, she can stop everything — redirect all our efforts and energies, make us feel helpless and out of control or sometimes kind, forgiving and benevolent.

She can make us pray for safety, run for cover, think of others, and get our acts together.

She always gives us chances to rethink, rebuild, and refresh.

Maybe Mother Nature is just God teaching us that we need to disconnect to connect.

Stop to start anew.

Hush to enjoy silence.

Feel stranded but never alone.

A historic blizzard might be just what we need to remind us whose really in charge here.

And, I don’t think it’s the weatherman.

So, for those of you still trapped by the snow, take a deep breath and enjoy this beautiful, rare kind of hush that’s over our world.

Thanks to Mary Sears for sharing this photo of all the deer enjoying the snow in our neighborhood.
From the News, Home

In Like a Lion

Happy March!

Yesterday I woke up to a winter wonderland, again.

Felt like the movie Groundhog Day.

groundhog1Remember Bill Murray waking up day after day and experiencing the exact same thing over and over?

“I’ll give you a winter prediction: it’s gonna be cold , it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last for the rest of your life.”

When I watched Groundhog Day, I felt a sensation of rising panic in my restless soul.

I hate routine and the idea of living the same day over and over endlessly made me feel like I was trapped in a funhouse that wasn’t fun. (Oh, that sounds like pregnancy..)

That’s how I expected to feel yesterday.

But, as I watched a heavy, endless stream of snowflakes dancing around in the sky and piling up on every outside surface, I actually felt happy, amazed really.


Here we are in what is often considered the power center of the world — the all-mighty American bastion of democracy, and yet, snow — that innocent-looking white, fluffy soft stuff — manages to shut down the U.S. government, close schools, stop major transportation systems, and keep all the powerful people either stuck at home or stuck in a snowdrift off the side of a road somewhere.

You’ve got to respect the weather, not just here, but everywhere.

In a metaphoric game of rock, paper, scissors, it always wins.

There’s no controlling or subduing it.

What that means is that we need to stop and control or subdue ourselves.

So, yesterday, I thought, I can hate this day and whine about the cold and the cabin fever. I can rant about how it should be spring OR I can enjoy it and honor the fact that weather always wins and make the best of it.

So, that’s what we did.

We shoveled, scraped and chipped ice with everyone else, but we also marveled at the beauty of our neighborhood blanketed in what we hope was the last gasp of winter.

DSC_0001According to Al Roker on the Today show, it’s over. He’s getting ready to sport his pink spring coat.


I’m ready for his pink suit coat. I’m ready for anything pink and flowery.

I’m choosing to believe Al and believe that yesterday’s storm was the last big hurrah.

Yippee! Spring is on its way.

Let the thaw begin!

I need to get the frozen Christmas decorations out of the planter on the porch.


Bring on the tulips, the pansies, the daffodils, green grass and leafy trees.

Let’s “march” toward spring.

I’m so ready.

Family, From the News, Memoir

Lessons from NYC 9-11 Memorial

We recently visited the new 9-11 Memorial in NYC, which commemorates the lives of those lost in the terrorist attacks.

One word: sad.


a piece of an original staircase from the World Trade Center
a piece of an original staircase from the World Trade Center

Visitors streamed through the museum in silence; many with tears running down their cheeks.

There were some parts of the museum that were so moving, I stifled outright sobbing.

People lingered over the exhibits, especially the ones with recorded voices of passengers on the hijacked planes calling their loved ones to tell them goodbye.

It struck me that in those final, horrific moments of their lives when they knew they were going to die, they called home and said, “I love you. Tell my family I love them.”

That was all they had to say.

That simple but common message summed up what mattered to every one of those victims; and in the end, their messages reminded every museum visitor what really matters to all of us.

A friend of ours, Walter, recently died from cancer and when his daughter spoke at his funeral, she said that as he was in his last days of his life, going in and out of consciousness, each time he awoke, he just wanted to repeat the words, “I love you” to his surrounding family.

He needed to make sure they knew.

I read an interesting quote that said boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend — everything has an “end” except family.

I didn’t hear any 9-11 tapes of people saying, “Tell my boss that report he needs is on my desk!” Or even “Throw out my incriminating personal journals and delete all my emails.”

A 33-year-old equity trader left a message for his mother as he saw people began falling from the windows above him in the Twin Towers.

“Mom, my building’s been hit by a plane. And right now… I think I’m OK, I’m safe now but it’s smoky.

“I just want to say how much I love you (voice breaks a little) and I will call you when I’m safe. OK mom? Bye.”

According to the above story link, “more than 1,000 phone calls were made in just 10 minutes after the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck. And thousands more kept calling as the horror unfolded. Some reached loved ones, others left heart-rending messages.”


A real estate broker who had just accepted a promotion at another firm was clearing his desk for his move when the towers were hit.


He left a frantic message for his wife and daughter, Nicole, as he became trapped. He said: “There’s a fire. I love you, tell Nicole ‘I love you’. I don’t know if I’m going to be OK. I love you so much.”

One phone call, one urgent message.

In the last moments of their lives, they only wanted to call home and tell their families they loved them.

Isn’t that what we would all do?

It made me ask myself a series of questions:

Does my family know how much I love them?

Do they know how hard it would be for me to leave or lose them?

Have I loved them all individually and fully enough that they would always remember my love for them?


Is there such a thing as enough love for a family?

Does my life reflect that my family is my absolute top priority?

One thing I know for sure is that if I were on my deathbed, like my friend, Walter, or going down in a plane or into a pile of rubble like the 9-11 victims, my only thought would be just like theirs — tell my family I love them.

I’d pray a desperate, crucial prayer that somehow my family could grasp the infinite, boundless depth of that love.

The obvious, looming question here is Why wait?

For me, having my life show that my family is what I value most means small things like moving away from my computer when one of my family members calls and focusing completely on our conversations.  

It means remembering to add our new son-in-law to our silly group text conversations, and even trying to consider what he might like to do other than shop when he is with us. (I’m not used to boys.)

It means scheduling time to be together as often as possible, and never forgetting to verbally say, “I love you!” I also think it means being specific about what I love because we can all go a long way with a genuine, specific compliment.

Going to the 9-11 museum didn’t teach me the importance of family. It just reinforced it. And it reminded me that in all the horror of 9-11, and all the other bad things that can happen in life, we have to circle the wagons around what matters most to us and then live like it really does.








From the News

Thank You Costco

I opened the Costco magazine today — The Costco Connection.

You know, the one disguised as a news magazine that’s really one big Costco promotional document.

It’s “the lifestyle magazine for Costco members.”

I’m a Costco member.  I carry the card, push the cart through the warehouse, and feel the rush of excitement when I see the lady giving out pumpkin pie bites.

I thumb through the magazine and notice some pithy articles about things like how to calm down angry customers, and how to fight back against abusive debt collectors. Neither of these apply to me but hey, some Costco members might benefit, right?

English: Oh no! not Costco And just to think, ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are probably lots of cart-pushing, sample-pursuing, bulk-size purchasers out there that need to fight off abusive debt collectors and calm down angry customers.

What interests me most in the November issue of the magazine is the article on “Holiday Countdown — how to plan the upcoming Christmas holiday with ease and convenience.”

Exactly what I need this year since we have three wedding events in three different places, two office parties, a church party, a neighborhood cookie exchange, bridal showers, an annual holiday party on Christmas Eve, and wedding guests arriving on Christmas Day.

Thank you, Costco for the helpful tips! And, just in time, too!

Grab a pen and paper because I’m going to share some amazing tips so that your holiday can be quick and convenient like mine.


Step one: Download the Costco app. You’ll need it for all the product descriptions, shipping information and special offers. Oh, now this is going to be good. They even have an app to help my holiday go smoothly.

Sounding good already, right? First to-do of step one:  Order your holiday cards from the Photo Center.

I’m moving on to step two already because I can tell you now, don’t look for a card from me this year. After going through the design, printing and addressing of wedding announcements, I will not be repeating the process for a Christmas card. Sorry. But, thanks for the tip, Costco.

Step two: Buy a new mattress. Yep, you read that right. Get a new mattress. Everybody needs one right before Christmas. Call Costco and they’ll take away your old one for $79.99.

Still part of step two:  buy new furniture, and splurge on a limited edition print from an emerging artist.

Buy new furniture?


We all need to refurnish our homes just before Christmas, right?  While we are at it, we might as well re-carpet, repaint, and add on a sunroom. Maybe I’ll bust out a wall and expand my kitchen too. If I do that, I might need even more furniture.

Thank you HGTV for this great idea.
Thank you HGTV for this great idea.

Not to fear, Costco is there to help me.

Don’t even think we’re moving on to step three yet because part two also recommends buying a stash — yes, they recommend “a stash” — of folding or stacking chairs.

How many are in a stash anyway?

While I’m remodeling my house for Christmas to accommodate all that new furniture, I think I’ll add on a storage room for my stash of folding chairs. After all, they come in contemporary and traditional styles that can blend into any room or table setting.

I’m telling you, Costco’s tips are making my holiday seem as easy as 1-2-3 just like they promised. I hope they are helping you just as much!

Step three: Finally, we are at step three. Pick a pretty party outfit for all the little girls in your life. I love this one. Let me think of all the little girls in my life, there are probably 40 of them at church, a couple of them next door. Gosh, maybe I should get 50 to be sure. After all, they sell out quickly and come in organza, satin, embellished taffeta, glitter mesh and sequins. What little girl doesn’t want to be draped in all that for the holidays?

Still part of step three is to order flowering bonsais and arrange to have them delivered to the hostesses of every party I might attend. Everybody loves a good bonsai for Christmas. Can’t have too many bonsais.

മലയാളം: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, still on step three, buy a pre-lit Christmas tree, garlands and wreaths; a luxury version of a British Christmas cracker with the Royal Warrant of Approval, and don’t forget to order an extra one for New Year’s Eve.

Holiday HDR
(Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Step four: From the serenity of a favorite coffee shop, order shirts, pants sweaters, and outerwear. Dang, they forgot to tell me who gets all those clothes. The girls get the 50 taffeta, glitter mesh and sequin dresses. But who gets the expanded collection of clothing in regular, big, tall and plus sizes? They failed me on this one.

I’ll figure out who gets the clothing later, I’m moving on to part B of Step four and getting fruits, nuts and sweet treats in beautifully decorated baskets for whoever’s left on my list after I give the plus-size, big and tall clothing to the yet-to-be-named recipients.

Next, one-of-a-kind diamonds for everybody and photo books and custom calendars.


In four easy steps, Costco has outlined the quickest and most convenient holiday season ever.

Doug gets the limited edition print because he can always use another one in his office. Oh, wait, he has no more wall space. I’ll give the emerging artist piece to my friend, Caren. But, she might prefer the diamonds. Okay, Caren gets the diamonds. Sara gets the big clothing. Wait, she wears a double zero petite, bless her miniature little frame. So, Sara gets all those baskets of food or maybe the glitter mesh dress will fit her.  Annie and Josh get the mattress because they’ll need it in their unfurnished apartment. Maybe they can have some of the stashed chairs and all that old furniture that will need a home after I get all the new furniture . My mom gets the bonsai, but wait, those are for the party hostesses. So, mom gets the calendar.

I’m a bit overwhelmed, but I trust Costco so I keep reading.

This is working out swimmingly.

Oh! There’s a step five disguised under the heading “post-holiday” gifts.

And, these gifts are for me!

I love you, Costco! Thank you for thinking of me!

You see, they know we might experience a tad of stress even though they’ve been so kind as to walk us through every step of a quick and convenient holiday season.

They believe in rewards for a job well done and guess what? We get some well-deserved R&R!

All we need to do now is go to Costco’s travel department and choose a travel package to help us relax on a tropical beach or explore a faraway land or sail the seas on a world-class cruise.

This is going to be great. When everybody else is dragging themselves back to work in January, we’ll be resting on a tropical beach.

When I get home from this much-needed vaca, I can jump back into a healthy routine with the new exercise equipment I pre-ordered from Costco and had installed by Costco’s white-glove installers.

And there’s more…To get help me ease back to work after all this pleasure, and fun, Costco helps me stock up on printers, copiers, paper and toning cartridges, pencils, pens, binder clips and rubber bands.

And guess what? Costco delivers all of this to my door!

My personal holiday countdown begins now.

Step One: Toss my Costco magazine. This “lifestyle” publication is targeted to someone else, not me. And unless I want to be the customer that needs the tips on dealing with abusive debt collectors, I better forget Costco all together.

Besides the lie about convenience and ease, No body on my list wants those Costco big and tall clothes or those gift baskets.  The little girls will hate the scratchy mesh dresses, and I will not be shipping a new mattress to Utah for Annie and Josh. That bonsai is the last thing my mom wants.  And, give Caren a Costco diamond? Seriously? I can already see the look on her face as she searches for the Tiffany blue box with a luxurious  white satin ribbon, wondering if the Costco box is a joke.

Pumpkin Pie from a *real* pumpkin.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bottom line: Look elsewhere for tips on how to have a convenient holiday. You won’t find it in the Costco Connection. However, if you want a good pumpkin pie, rush to your nearest Costco warehouse.

Change, From the News, Memoir

A Peaceful Transition of Power

1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bu...
1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bush, Opening Ceremonies, at Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Many years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I had the privilege of working for a U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

George Herbert Walker Bush had just been elected President of the United States the week before I got married.

When Doug and I returned from our honeymoon and I returned to my job as the communications director for U.S. Senator Jake Garn, I got a telephone call from a friend and former colleague wondering if I would be willing to advise the inaugural committee on media relations and public affairs.

With my boss’ support, I left the office that day and went to the inaugural committee’s headquarters in SE Washington where they had transformed an old empty warehouse into a frenetic, exciting workplace for the President’s inauguration.

I walked in as a volunteer adviser and ended up as the new director of communications and taking a leave of absence from my Capitol Hill job.  I’d never worked in such an intense, fast-paced, exhilarating job in my life, and I never have since.

We had meetings for all the directors every morning and every evening and had a clock ticking the entire day, counting down to the swearing-in and all the traditional festivities that celebrate that historic moment.

I learned three of my most important life lessons in that job. At my first early morning meeting, the executive director, Stephen M. Studdert, went around the table and asked everyone to introduce themselves. I glanced around and noticed that I was one of three women at the table. I was 31 years old. Every one else had more experience, what I viewed as more prestigious jobs, and a history working with President Bush, either in the campaign, in Texas or in the White House when he served as Vice President.

The closer they got to me, the more nervous I became. The thought crossed my mind, “I have no business in this room with these people.” Right before it was my turn, an inner voice shot back, “That’s the last time ever that you are going to think like that. The minute you doubt your abilities, you’re done. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t qualified. If you give in to that way of thinking, you’ll fail. Now, just dig in and do this thing!

If I’d continued to compare myself to every other person in that room, I’d have walked out powerless and weak. And, I knew that in an environment like that, there was no room for insecurity and no time to nurse a case of fledgling confidence.

At every morning meeting, we received and/or shared our day’s goals. At every evening meeting, we reported on our progress. One of the directors got a little too long-winded in his report, and was quickly told, “Look, I don’t want your life story. Just get to the point.”

It’s true. We were marching toward inauguration day and didn’t have time for chitchat. The clock was steadily clicking. I learned to get to the point — fast.

The other more philosophical lesson I learned was the utter beauty of a “peaceful transition of power.” As I wrote press releases, arranged media interviews, and shaped messages, I marveled over the unique American ritual of a peaceful inauguration.

Capitol 9
Capitol 9 (Photo credit: afagen)

Today, as President Obama takes the public oath of office, I remember the day I stood in the press stands during President Bush’s inauguration and looked out at the throngs of people packing the lawn and the streets of the nation’s capitol.

Nothing brings greater feelings of patriotism that seeing all our American pageantry on display with our military bands; red, white and blue bunting around the Capitol building, and citizens from all over the country representing our nation’s uniqueness in the inaugural parade.

Despite your politics, take a minute today to appreciate America. In a world full of conflict, we should celebrate the honor of living in a country where a “peaceful” inauguration will once again occur — something we should never take for granted.