Thank You, Mrs. Bush

By Tom Rosshirt

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p>This is a reprint of a 2012 article written by columnist Tom Rosshirt for Creators Syndicate. </p>” id=”ef664a41-4120-4f1d-a46b-9f5d21818195″ style-type=”highlights” title=”Editor’s Note” type=”relcontent”}}

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><strong>Tom Rosshirt</strong> was a national security speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and a foreign affairs spokesman for Vice President Al Gore. </p>” id=”5a59e40b-b255-4417-93b7-a875f4ca4a2b” style-type=”info” title=”Bio Box” type=”relcontent”}}

My brother Matt died of AIDS 26 years ago today, passing away in his bed in my parents’ home in Houston.

It was a benighted time for people with AIDS. There were no antiretrovirals then. There was nothing much you could do for an AIDS patient but hold his hand. And many people still thought you could get AIDS by touching. My parents knew of individuals who’d been fired from their jobs for volunteering for AIDS organizations. That’s how crazy the fear was.

As Matt was dying, we were befriended by a man named Lou Tesconi, a volunteer from the local AIDS organization. Lou came by to visit with Matt and to offer whatever service and kindness he could to my mom and dad.

Shortly after Matt died, Lou began studies to become a Catholic priest. Within the year, he was diagnosed with AIDS and kicked out of the seminary. Lou was a lawyer by training and temperament. He appealed the judgment to a Catholic bishop, who then asked Lou to found and head a ministry for people with AIDS. It was called Damien Ministries and was established in a poor part of Washington, D.C.

In early 1989, when the country was still very ignorant and fearful of AIDS, Lou got a call from the White House. First lady Barbara Bush was planning to visit Grandma’s House, a home for infants with AIDS. It was one of the very first outings in her tenure as first lady, and Lou was asked to join a team of people to brief her privately before the event.

During the briefing, Lou told me later, he said: “Mrs. Bush, it is a fantastic thing that you are holding these babies with AIDS. But the country sees them as innocent and the rest of us with AIDS as guilty. The whole suffering AIDS community needs a collective embrace from you today.”

Lou thought he was speaking metaphorically. Apparently, Mrs. Bush doesn’t do metaphor. She stood up, walked over to Lou and gave him a big hug.

After the briefing, Mrs. Bush took a tour of the facility as she talked to the press. She hugged, kissed and played with three little girls and then nailed the message: “You can hug and pick up babies and people who have … HIV. … There is a need for compassion.”

At the news conference afterward, Lou stood by his point on Mrs. Bush’s visit: “I’m afraid that it may send a message that babies are innocent and can be helped,” he said, “but that the rest of us aren’t.” He added: “I told her it would certainly help to get a collective hug from the first lady.”

Then, again, this time in front of the cameras, Mrs. Bush wrapped Lou up in a big embrace.

Mrs. Bush wrote of this visit in her memoirs. She noted that “even then, people still thought that touching a person with the virus was dangerous.” But she didn’t give herself any credit for dealing a blow against stigma by embracing a gay man with AIDS in 1989.

Lou had a buzz from that hug that never went away.

In the fall of 1991, near Thanksgiving, I got a call from a friend that Lou had gone into the hospital again. He didn’t have to tell me that it was for the last time. I called the White House and asked whether I could speak to the first lady’s office. I was a nobody press secretary on the Hill. I didn’t expect anyone in the White House to talk to me. Suddenly, I was speaking with the first lady’s press secretary, Anna Perez, who had accompanied Mrs. Bush to Grandma’s House that day. I began to recount the events of two years before, and she saved me the time: “I remember Mr. Tesconi,” she said. I explained Lou’s condition and said, “It would be so comforting for him to receive a letter from Mrs. Bush.”

A few days later, I went to see Lou in the hospital. As soon as he saw me, he reached beside his bed with a slow and shaky hand and pulled out a letter: “Look what I got,” he said.

The letter was unflinching and full of love. She didn’t duck the issue that Lou was dying. She used it as a pivot to say, “Well-done.” At the bottom, in her own hand, she wrote to Lou that his life mattered, that he had made an impact.

That was a long time ago. But some things you don’t forget — and shouldn’t. In a time of ignorance, her wise touch eased the sting of exclusion for my friend and many others.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush.


© 2018,

Tom Rosshirt was a national security speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and a foreign affairs spokesman for Vice President Al Gore. 

This is a reprint of a 2012 article written by columnist Tom Rosshirt for Creators Syndicate. 

      04c4afdc-5228-11e8-9478-e718aaf792a52018-05-07T18:54:00Zreal-estateAmerican spiritThe Judy Savoy HomeLIFE AT HOMERitaLeBleuFeature Reporter

      In every glassed-fronted kitchen cabinet and in other areas of the house, is the Savoy’s extensive collection of Cobalt Blue. 

      RitaLeBleuFeature Reporter

      Judy Savoy loves America and her home shows it. 

      “I used to change the decorations every season,” said Savoy, who has travelled all over the U.S. and lived in France for four years. “But I don’t like climbing up and down the ladder these days.” 

      The cathedral ceiling of lightly stained tongue and groove pine is 18 feet up. She helped with the staining. Her husband installed it. 

      Savoy is a native of Lake Charles Traveling to all fifty states was on her late husband’s bucket list. Savoy loved traveling with him, but all the sight seeing has made her appreciate Lake Charles, the state and country she loves. For her, there’s no place like home. 

      When Hurricane Rita destroyed the house she and her late husband, Don, built in Big Lake, she used it as an opportunity to move closer to the city. Familiar with the area, she chose Barbe Country Estates. 

      “We got a guy to black-in the house for us and we did a lot of the finish work ourselves,” Savoy said. 

      Her husband was a mechanical engineer. The couple designed the 4,400-square-foot (under roof) house together. The Big Lake House was only a couple of years old when Hurricane Rita ripped through in 2005. The couple built the Barbe Country Estates house in 2006. 

      Most of the cobalt blue displayed in the house was collected when Savoy lived in France – 36 cases to be exact. However, she continues to collect pieces of blue, especially when she spots a bargain. 

      Savoy’s home– in addition to being red, white and blue all the way through – features trim made of rope rather than wood, a Teddy Bear room, an out of the ordinary bathroom, a swimming pool with an exceptionally large outdoor living space that’s beautifully decorated and front lawn like no other. 

      “Don used rope to trim the Big Lake House,” Savoy said. “We liked it and decided to use it here.” 

      The Teddy Bear room has a bedspread and window treatments with the Teddy Bear theme and hundreds of bears. The Hard Rock Café and Ty Bears span two walls. The room also has bear figurines and wall décor. 

      The bathroom features a shower with hardly any bottom ledge at its opening, which provides easier access for those with limited mobility. The tiled shower with rain showerhead is in the center of the room. Surrounding the sides and back of the shower wall is the closet with plenty of walking and hanging space. 

      The backyard is completely private. The pool is pristine. The lawn is immaculate with help from a local landscape company and the decked outdoor living space is enormous and continues the red, white and blue theme. Due to the amount of windows at the back of the house, it’s a scene that can be enjoyed inside as well as out. 

      In the front yard, the grass is mowed in a way that spells out the name Don on one side of the sidewalk. The name Judy is on the other. The landscaping crew doesn’t keep it as exact and meticulous as her mechanical engineering husband did, but they’re getting the knack of it. 

      She likes the reminders of him, inside and out, in this unique home they built together that demonstrates her love, decorating and appreciation of being able to call America, home. 


Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

Local News

ABOB Community Theatre to present ‘Clue’

Local News

Exhibit of works of celebrated New Orleans painter opens at Historic City Hall

Local News

SW La. nightlife calendar: Here’s what’s happening

Local News

‘Get your creative juices flowing’ with Hook Nook Crafting

Local News

Fire Chief Harlow has intense love for public service

Local News

LABI head: State needs streamlined sales tax collection


R&B superstar R. Kelly convicted in sex trafficking trial


Leesville woman accused of stabbing boyfriend

Local News

Health care workers sue La. hospitals over vaccine mandate

Local News

Volunteer of Week: All of Bergeron family involved in community service

Local News

Gallery: Firefighter challenge

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column:Amendment No. 1 is winner


Residents taking insurance companies to city court

Local News

Coming back stronger: Davison talks BBBS rebound, recovery

Local News

Ruth Sullivan, pioneer in the study of autism, dies at 97

Local News

Pfizer booster shots now available to adults at increased risk


Driver arrested for drugs after passenger found dead in truck

Local News

From Moss Bluff to Diitabiki and back again


O’Brien sentenced to life for rape of child


Five accused of attempted ATM burglaries

Local News

I-10 bridge task force chair: Wednesday crash highlights need for new bridge

Local News

National Seat Check Saturday at Southwest Beverage


State Police investigating officer-involved fatal shooting of inmate