- Former President George H.W. Bush secretly exchanged letters with a boy in the Philippines for 10 years, from 2002 to 2012.
- The pen pal program was organized through the nonprofit Compassion International, which also allowed Bush to sponsor him.
- Bush used a pseudonym for security reasons, but dropped hints about his life as America’s 41st president.
Former President George H.W. Bush exchanged letters with a Filipino boy for 10 years, keeping his identity a secret by using a pseudonym while dropping cryptic hints about his life as the country’s 41st president.
The letters, obtained by CNN, show the former president asking a boy named Timothy about his personal hobbies and religious life.
“I want to be your new pen pal. I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already. I live in Texas – I will write you from time to time – Good Luck,” Bush wrote in his first letter.
Bush, who died in November, started communicating with Timothy through Compassion International, a nonprofit organization that allows church members to sponsor children in poor areas. Through the organization, Bush paid for some of Timothy’s meals, education, and extracurricular activities, according to CNN. The correspondence ran from 2002 until 2012, when Timothy graduated from the organization’s program at the age of 17 (Compassion International hasn’t disclosed Timothy’s last name).
According to Compassion International, Bush first got the idea to get involved in the organization at a Christmas concert in 2001. During the concert, musicians asked the audience if they wanted to sponsor a child.
“All of the sudden, Mr. Bush, who was sitting only a few rows back and surrounded by security, raised his hand and asked for a pamphlet,” former Compassion International president Wess Stafford told CNN.
For security reasons, Bush needed to be anonymous. His security team didn’t want Timothy to become a target if someone found out he could communicate with a former president, Stafford said. So Bush signed his letters “G. Walker” and withheld personal details in his letters. He sometimes sent gifts, too, like sketch pads and paint when he learned Timothy was interested in art.
When Timothy left the program in 2012, he was shocked to learn who his pen pal was, Stafford told CNN.
In his letters, Bush still sneaked in details about his true identity. He shared a photo of his dog, Sadie.
“Her name is Sadie. She has met a lot of famous people,” he wrote. “She is a very good dog she was born in England. She catches mice and chipmunks, and she runs like the wind.”
In another, he talked about going to the White House for Christmas.
“Timothy, have you ever heard of the White House? That’s where the president of the USA lives,” he wrote. “I got to go to the White House at Christmas time.”
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