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September 20, 2012

‘He was thinking about the Constitution’

Former White House chief of staff speaks to Blinn students about Constitution, 9/11

Andrew CardAndrew Card, acting dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, spoke to a crowd of approximately 400 Blinn College students and faculty this afternoon about the Constitution and his experiences as chief of staff to President George W. Bush during the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Card spoke on the College’s Bryan campus as part of its Constitution Week programming following an invitation from the Bryan Student Government Association and Dr. Blanche Brick, social sciences division chair. The Constitution was originally adopted by the American Congress of the Confederation on Sept. 17, 1787, and Constitution Week was developed to promote study and education about the document.

“We celebrated a big anniversary on Monday and most people didn’t pay attention – the anniversary of our Constitution,” Card said. “We celebrate Independence Day because that’s the day we decided to break away from Britain and become our own country, but it wasn’t until we had a Constitution that we became a country that worked.”

Card has served three different U.S. Presidents, each tasked with preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States. He served President Ronald Reagan as special assistant for intergovernmental affairs and as deputy assistant to the president and the director of intergovernmental affairs. For President George H.W. Bush’s administration, he served as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff, where he managed the daily operations of the White House staff and participated in the full range of economic, foreign and domestic policy development.

Card also served the 41st president as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  He directed the presidential transition from the Bush administration to the Clinton administration. Eight years later, in November 2000, he was appointed chief of staff for President George W. Bush and served in that position for 5 ½ years.

Card described Bush’s first moments inside the Oval Office as the sitting president.
“He walked to the middle of the room and I noticed that he was standing right over the seal of the President of the United States,” Card said. “On the ceiling, right above his head, was the seal of the President of the United States. Then he turned around and looked at his desk, the Resolute Desk, and there on that desk was the seal of the President of the United States.

“And he didn’t say a word. He just walked around to the other side of the desk and he sat down in the chair. And then we heard footsteps on the colonnade out by the Rose Garden, and a gentleman walked in and said, ‘Mr. President,’ and the president looked up and said, ‘Mr. President.’ It was his dad.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, it was Card who stepped into a Sarasota, Fla. classroom where George W. Bush was speaking to a class of second graders and told the president that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center and the nation was under attack.

“The President did nothing to introduce fear to those very young second graders and he did nothing to demonstrate fear to the media,” Card said. “I also believe he was thinking about his job, which means he was thinking about the Constitution and the unique oath that he took … where he promised to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

“The person who had the responsibility for that Constitution understood it and had the courage to make tough decisions. It wasn’t a day the President wanted to be president, it was a day he had to be president.”