Retired Jefferson City teacher reflects on meeting former president George H.W. Bush

Dennis Lock poses with a picture of himself and George H.W. Bush. (Kyreon Lee/KRCG 13).

The year was 1986 and Dennis Lock was a social studies teacher, teaching international relations at Jefferson City High School. It was an average school day, so he thought, until the social studies department chair came to his room and said there was a call for him from the vice president's office.

George H.W. Bush was the vice president at the time and Lock was surprised to be receiving a phone call. He waited on the phone patiently and soon heard the voice of Bush.

"He said I received a letter from some students in the Soviet Union and I was wondering if you would be interested in participating in a project with me for this," Lock said. Although Lock wasn't certain about what the project entailed, he agreed right away and Bush put one of his staff members on the phone.

The letter Bush spoke of was from 28 Soviet Union tenth graders who were criticizing the American government, way of life and questioning values and morals.

"They decided rather than having a staff member reply, it might be more appropriate to have a group of high school students reply," Lock said. "Somewhere, somehow, some way, my name and Jefferson City High School came up."

The students in the international relations class were excited about the opportunity when Lock addressed them about what the president had asked of them.

After receiving the translated letter from the Soviet students, Lock then had to work with his students on a way to respond to the letter.

"We decided to respond to that letter by trying to explain the American system, the structure, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our form of government," Lock said. He said he wanted to go into a broader system of how the American system worked and how it was developed, then address their specific questions.

The class spent weeks developing a response to the Soviet students, it was then sent off to them.

Meeting George H.W. Bush

Weeks had passed and summer had came. Lock said he believes Bush and his staff was pleased with his class's response to the Soviet students. Consequently, Bush invited Lock and his students to Kansas City, where he would be for an event. Due to it being summer time, not everyone could make the trip. However, a group of 12 students journeyed to Kansas City to meet Bush.

The students formally presented the letter they had constructed in front of Bush and a group of people. After, Bush granted the students one on one time with him in a round table discussion.

"He met with them for 30 to 40 minutes, exchanging ideas, in discussion and answering their questions," Lock said.

As Bush was in their presence, Lock said he was in complete awe. He said he had not prepared his students for the visit and he simply wanted them to go in and ask their own questions. He said his students asked very insightful questions and Bush responded with honest answers.

"I was really pleased and excited with how the students responded," Lock said. He said he was also pleased with how much time Bush spent with his student and how genuine he was.

He recalls one of Bush's staff members telling him to tell his students to stop with the discussion.

"I said to the staff member, this is not our show, this is the vice president. He will go as long as he wants to," Lock said.

Reflecting on Bush today

Lock said he now reflects on Bush's passing and how people described him as a man who was charming, kind and wonderful. He said he absolutely agrees.

"He genuinely took interest in the kids, he answered their questions, he was really a very nice person to them and spent all the time they wanted to spend," Lock said.

Lock said anyone who attended this trip that would like pictures, please contact him.

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