Each president in this photo did things I disagreed with politically. Quite a lot, in fact, for most of them.
And yet I never doubted that every single one of them acted based on core values, including love of country—not, primarily, love of self. pic.twitter.com/N19fV1zPoD
— David Priess (@DavidPriess) April 22, 2018
After the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, a photo of several generations of American Presidents went viral. It’s one of those rare but touching viral photos that most people actually love, because it features four Presidents (Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush) and four First Ladies (Melania Trump, former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton). CNN’s Chris Cillizza has the story of how this remarkable photo came about:
The photo, taken Saturday by Paul Morse, a former White House photographer for George W. Bush, was initially tweeted by Jim McGrath, the spokesperson for George H. W. Bush in his post-White House years.President Donald Trump is notably absent from the photo, as he did not attend the funeral in Houston on Saturday. The White House released a statement saying he decided not to attend the funeral in order “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service.”
Cillizza: Let’s start at the beginning. Why were you at the funeral?
Morse: I was asked by the Office of George H.W. Bush if I would be available to cover the funeral service when it was announced Mrs. Bush was seeking comfort care. I was in Dallas that week photographing events for the Bush Center so it was easy to travel to Houston in time for the service.
It was really an honor to be asked. I have been working for President George W. Bush for 15 years starting at the White House in 2001 as the deputy director of photography and for the Bush Center when I started my own business. I have also worked for President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Cillizza: The photo that went viral: How did it happen? Did you organize them into that grouping?
Morse: The photo was organized at the reception prior to the funeral service by President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff Jean Becker while VIPs were greeting (Bush) 41. Jean has a commanding presence and asked all the former presidents and first ladies to come together for a group photo before they lined up to walk into the service.
Cillizza: What was the vibe among them? Had they all been talking before? Did they talk after?
Morse: The vibe was very upbeat. They were all talking with each other after they greeted 41. There were family members of 41, grandkids, former White House staff, judges, former heads of state, Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “My first thought after taking that picture was _________________.” Now, explain.
Morse: My first thought after taking the picture was it was a nice moment of this exclusive group of people.
When I looked at the photo closer, I noticed how all the smiles and gestures were very genuine and natural. Everyone looked very happy and I think they were happy to be there to support President Bush 41.