Jenna Bush Hager on Finding out About Grandfather George H.W. Bush’s Secret Sponsorship of Filipino Boy
"One of the things that I really loved about him was his humility."
For nearly 20 years, unbeknownst to nearly all who knew him, former President George H.W. Bush secretly sponsored a Filipino boy named Timothy. It was only after his death, that the extent of the 41st president's relationship with the young stranger came to light. Even the boy did not know that Bush was his benefactor through the U.S.-based non-profit, Compassion International.
Throughout the years, the former president provided financial support to Timothy in addition to writing him letters—letters that were kept secret until recently. He even sent doodled pictures and art supplies. For security reasons, Bush was careful to use the pseudonym "George Walker" in the decade they kept in touch.
"He really threw himself into it," Wess Stafford, Compassion International's president emeritus, told The Gazette. "He would write to little Timothy and Timothy would write to him, and anything that Timothy said that was interesting, President Bush would write right back with a comment on it. You know, ‘Thank you for the picture of that beautiful rainbow. You know, we had a rainbow like that right outside my house just last week.'"
The correspondence was kept so tightly under wraps, that even Bush's granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, had no idea it was going on. But when she learned of it recently, the Today host said she wasn't surprised.
"No one [knew], I mean, I didn't know about it," Bush Hager, 37, told her co-hosts on Thursday. "You know, one of the things that I really loved about him was his humility. His mom would always say, ‘Don't use the I word, talk about what others do.' So he never told me this."
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The mom-of-two said the story exemplifies her grandfather's modesty.
"Reading these letters yesterday, I miss him, but also, this is the reason why I miss him — because he didn't need to brag about it," she said.