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The President Hugs A Child

Bush Photo with Teen Shows Conviction and Compassion

Editorial by C.K. Rairden
May 10, 2004


It started out as a fluke.  Lynn Faulkner had been offered an extra ticket to a Bush campaign event by his neighbor Linda Prince.  Mr. Faulkner decided to offer it to his 15-year old daughter Ashley who he expected would decline, as she would have to miss some school to attend.  But his daughter surprised him.  Ashley reminded her dad how four years ago they attended a similar event when then Texas Governor George W.  Bush visited the same spot on the campaign trail. 

Ashley remembered attending that event with both her father and her mother Wendy Faulkner.  It was raining that day and they all stood in the rain awaiting Governor Bush "eating Triscuit crackers" enjoying the time together and hoping to get a glimpse of the would-be president.  Ashley recalled holding her mothers hand as they waited So she decided to go again this year, but this time her mother could not attend.  Wendy Faulkner was murdered on 9/11/01 in the south tower of the World Trade Center.  She was there on the 104th floor for a one-day meeting.  Ashley decided to miss school in honor and remembrance of her mother and attend the event. 

So the trip was on.  Linda Prince, along with Lynn and Ashley Faulkner, were off to the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio for the event.  The group arrived early and got a spot close to the front.  As the event wound down, the president worked the line in full campaign mode shaking hands and signing autographs.  As the president passed the group, Mr .  Faulkner got an autograph, and the president continued on until Linda Prince spoke up, "This girl lost her mother on 9/11," Prince told the president. 

Then everything changed.

"The president's entire expression transformed," Mr. Faulkner told me on Sunday.  "He turned and came back against the flow and his eyes locked on Ashley's.  His face showed a man who was no longer the president, he was a father and a husband. " President Bush made his way back to Ashley and he embraced the 15-yeal old young woman.  "She snuggled in with the president just like she did when she was a little girl with her dad," Mr. Faulkner said.  "I know it's hard," Mr. Faulkner heard the president tell his daughter.  "I'm okay," Ashley told the president.  The embrace continued. 

Mr. Faulkner had his Kodak digital camera with him and debated on invading this very private moment between his daughter and the leader of the free world.  "For 20-30 seconds the president belonged exclusively to Ashley," Lynn Faulkner told me.  So he decided to capture the moment without invading Ashley and the president's privacy.  He held up his digital camera, not even aiming with his eye and with one click snapped just one picture.  It showed in detail the face of a compassionate man who just happens to be the president comforting a young woman who lost her mother in the 9/11 attacks on America. 

Mr. Faulkner told me that he saw tears in his daughter's eyes, and saw emotion that he hadn't seen from his daughter in 2 years.  Ashley told her dad, "The way he was holding me, with my head against his chest, it felt like he was trying to protect me, he wanted to make sure that I was safe. " That feeling is captured in a very clear way in this moving unscripted photo.  It's the only photo of this special embrace as the press corps had already been ushered back on the bus.  And the photo was never meant for publication.  All Mr. Faulkner did when he returned home from the event was e-mail it to 15 friends and family.  But by the middle of last week, I had received the photo from eight different people.  Others were also receiving the photo and forwarding it along.  It became an Internet phenomonen, as it was e-mailed around America. 

Mr. Faulkner called the embrace "President Bush's precious gift to my daughter. " And with his small act of e-mailing that photo to friends and family, the picture can now become a gift to the American people. 


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