Helena and Central Montana | Montana's News Leader®

Lieutenant governor’s son recalls meeting George H.W. Bush

We shared with you this week Montana Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney’s recollection of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 visit to Montana to celebrate the state’s centennial.

The meeting took place before the president’s speech and Cooney brought his oldest son, Ryan, just five years old at the time.

He said the meeting is one of his most vivid memories from early childhood.

“This man walked in the room and started shaking hands and that’s when my jaw dropped and I realized, ‘Wow, this is the President of the United States,’” said Ryan.  “And I still very clearly remember shaking his hand and staring up at him. He asked me a few questions and I just kind of nodded in awe.”

Ryan said not long after that, he wrote the president a note and mailed him a picture of Air Force One. And he got a response.

He has both the letter and the picture of their handshake framed in his classroom.

Ryan is a government teacher at PAL, the Project for Alternative Learning, in Helena.

“I’ve been sharing the picture with my students and sharing my memories,” he explained. “And (meeting President Bush) really brought the Presidency down to earth for me and has given me a great appreciation for American government and I teach government, so obviously it had an influence.”

Ryan said his students have been learning about Bush’s presidency, and his career prior to the presidency, all week.

-Reported by Melissa Jensen/MTN News

(December 4, 2018) President George H.W. Bush visited Helena on September 18, 1989 to help Montana celebrate its centennial.

“Let me say to everyone here and to all the people of Montana, that it is a great pleasure for me to be back in this great state.  Happy birthday… 100,” President Bush said in his speech that day.

He spoke of the impressive centennial cattle drive and remarked on the landmarks of Montana’s Capital City.

In his speech, the president also spoke of the environment and what he called a common concern among many, the need to ” awaken a new spirit of environmentalism across America.”

Current Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney was Montana’s new secretary of state in 1989.

He says President George H.W. Bush was warm and friendly when they met before the speech.

“President Bush came in, he was extraordinarily gracious,” says Lt. Gov. Cooney.  “There wasn’t a lot of fanfare, he just walked in and we all applauded and he just spent time talking to each and every one of us.  The White House photographer was there and took pictures and we all got copies of those pictures and then he went out after that and he gave the speech.”

Cooney brought his then 5-year-old son Ryan along to meet President Bush.

He says he promised his son lunch wherever he wanted, if the little boy could patiently wait to meet the president.

Another remembrance of President George H.W. Bush stands in front of the Capitol, on the west lawn.

It’s a tree that was planted during that 1989 visit.

The tree’s plaque reads: “This elm tree is a seedling of a tree planted at the White House by President John Quincy Adams in 1826 presented to the people of Montana in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of statehood by President George Bush, September 18, 1989.

-Reported by Melissa Jensen/MTN News

MTN News

MTN News

Scroll to top
Skip to content