|Bush quietly meets with Amish here; they offer their prayers
By Jack Brubaker
Lancaster New Era
Published: Jul 16, 2004 "Lancaster
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - President Bush met privately with a group of Old Order Amish during his visit to Lancaster County last Friday. He discussed their farms and their hats and his religion. He asked them to vote for him in November.
The Amish told the president that not all members of the church vote but they would pray for him.
Bush had tears in his eyes when he replied. He said the president needs their prayers. He also said that having a strong belief in God is the only way he can do his job.
This story has not been reported before. You might think an observant press follows the president everywhere, especially during a re-election campaign, but no reporter attended this meeting.
Sam Stoltzfus, an Old Order historian and writer who lives in Gordonville, spoke with a number of people present at the session with the president.
He related what happened to the Scribbler, saying the Amish “caught Bush’s heart.’’
The 20-minute meeting with Bush occurred immediately after the president addressed a select audience at Lapp Electric Service in Smoketown Friday afternoon.
An Amish woman who lives on a farm across Witmer Road from Lapp Electric that morning had presented a quilt to the president with a card thanking him for his leadership of the country.
Bush said he would like to talk to the quilter and her family.
So the Secret Service invited the family to meet the president. Friends wanted to come along, and the entire assembly eventually numbered about 60. They were evenly divided between adults and children of all ages.
The group walked together across the road to Lapp Electric.
Stoltzfus reports: “It took a while to get them through the metal detectors as these were farmers and shop men, with vice grips, pocket knives, and nuts and bolts in their pockets. Some ladies had baby gear. All pockets had to be emptied.’’
When the Amish were “found not to be a serious threat to national security,’’ they were allowed inside the office area of Lapp Electric and waited about 30 minutes for the president to appear.
“Babies got restless. Children squirmed,’’ Stoltzfus reports. “Suddenly the president and five Secret Service men stepped into the room. One housewife said, ‘Are you George Bush?’’’
The president replied in the affirmative and shook hands all around, asking the names of all. He especially thanked the “quilt frau,’’ who operates her own business selling quilts and crafts.
“He seemed relaxed and just like an old neighbor,’’ says Stoltzfus.
Bush said he had never met any Amish before and was curious about why the men were wearing straw hats rather than black wool hats. The Amish explained that they wear cooler straw in summer. Bush tried on a hat.
The president commented on the appearance of Amish farms, and an Amish man spoke apologetically about how he and his friends were not expecting to see the president and were wearing soiled work clothes. Bush said he did not mind that.
Another man remarked that he has twin daughters, as does Bush. The man said one of his twins had dreamed the night before that she was shaking hands with the president and now she actually had done that.
“One of the young girls wanted to give Bush a whoopie pie cookie,’’ Stoltzfus says. “Bush declined it. The Secret Service man took it, as presidents aren’t supposed to eat untested food.’’
At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.’’
As the president left the room, one Amish man wished him good luck in November.
“The Amish group headed back to their farms and shops,’’ reports Stoltzfus. “Mothers took their children home for a nap and went back to their sewing and gardens.’’
Bush moved along to an appearance in York County, leaving behind a group of Old Order admirers who have tales to tell for the rest of their lives.
The Scribbler column runs Tuesdays and Fridays in the New Era.
© 2004 Lancaster Newspapers