Premier meets the President

Premier Ewart Brown yesterday described his meeting with US president George W. Bush at the White House as "a singular honour".

What he had thought would be a "five-minute photo opportunity" turned into a 20-minute conversation in the hallowed surroundings of the Oval Office, with subject matter ranging from the state of Bermuda's reinsurance and tourism industries to Mr. Bush's mother's knee replacement.

With Mr. Bush having just a few months to serve before the end of his second four-year term in office, the opportunity for the two men to establish anything of long-term importance was limited. Hence the Premier had billed it as a "courtesy visit".

  • <B>Premier Dr. Ewart Brown </B>shakes hands with the President of the United States, George W. Bush in the Oval office of the US executive mansion, The White House in Washington, DC yesterday. Mr. Bush extended the meeting to more than 20 minutes of his time, reminiscing about a visit to rainy Bermuda, the insurance industry, his plans after leaving office and the work of his consul general in Bermuda, Gregory Slayton. Dr. Brown is in the US capital for a series of meetings

    Premier Dr. Ewart Brown shakes hands with the President of the United States, George W. Bush in the Oval office of the US executive mansion, The White House in Washington, DC yesterday. Mr. Bush extended the meeting to more than 20 minutes of his time, reminiscing about a visit to rainy Bermuda, the insurance industry, his plans after leaving office and the work of his consul general in Bermuda, Gregory Slayton. Dr. Brown is in the US capital for a series of meetings


Premier Ewart Brown yesterday described his meeting with US president George W. Bush at the White House as "a singular honour".

What he had thought would be a "five-minute photo opportunity" turned into a 20-minute conversation in the hallowed surroundings of the Oval Office, with subject matter ranging from the state of Bermuda's reinsurance and tourism industries to Mr. Bush's mother's knee replacement.

With Mr. Bush having just a few months to serve before the end of his second four-year term in office, the opportunity for the two men to establish anything of long-term importance was limited. Hence the Premier had billed it as a "courtesy visit".

But it's not every day a Bermuda head of government meets the leader of the free world in his inner sanctum, the last time it happened was when David Saul met with Bill Clinton 12 years ago, and Dr. Brown was clearly upbeat about the experience.

One topic to come up was the US interest in renting out Clifton, a 200-year-old, Government-owned house close to the US Consulate building in Devonshire. Dr. Brown suggested the Americans' intention could be in establishing the historic house as a residence for the US Consul General. Clifton underwent a $1.5 million revamp two years ago, which included bolstering its security to prepare it to be a Government-provided home for the Premier.

"We talked about the United States' interest in renting Clifton," Dr. Brown said. "I don't know what their specific interest was. If you're operating next door, it could solve a lot of problems if you can live next door."

The visit was part of a hectic, two-and-a-half-day schedule of meetings with US lawmakers to promote the Island's interests over a wide range of issues including tax, insurance and the possibility of basing a US Coast Guard station on the Island.

"I had only visited the White House as college student in the 60s and I'd never seen a sitting President, although I have met other former Presidents," Dr. Brown said. "So it was a singular honour to meet him."

Mr. Bush noted Bermuda's remarkable financial success. "He was happy to recall that Bermuda's income per capita and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was so high and jokingly said maybe we can lend them some money," Dr. Brown said.

The President also mentioned that his post-White House plans included visiting the Island and also setting up the "Freedom Centre" – a body to help alleviate suffering in countries ravaged by hunger and disease. "I was impressed," Dr. Brown said.

"I enjoyed it more than I expected and it went longer than I expected," the Premier said. "But the President was as pleasant and upbeat as I had been told he would be.

"We talked about Bermuda. He was interested in how we were doing in tourism and understood our rationale for rebuilding tourism and not having a one-legged economy.

"He said he hoped he could add to our numbers after he could get away from the rigour of his present duties.

"He said he's been to Bermuda before and it rained every day, so we told him we had corrected that problem, so he should come and spend some time with us.

"Mr. Bush also asked how former Premier Sir John Swan was doing. Mr. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, is friendly with Sir John and met frequently with him while the two were in office.

"The President also asked how the reinsurance business was going and I assured him that it was going well and that we're looking towards even better days in reinsurance," Dr. Brown said.

"We talked about family and he asked about my grandchildren," the Premier added. "We talked about his mother having a knee replacement and he asked me where I'd done my medical training and I told him Howard University. Of course, he knows about Howard.

"This is the third annual bilateral visit to Washington to be organised by US Consul General Gregory Slayton and Dr. Brown said he pointed out to the President the good work that Mr. Slayton was doing.

Dr. Brown was accompanied in the Oval Office by his Press Secretary Glenn Jones and Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque and US Consul General Gregory Slayton.

Mr. Slayton said afterward: "The meeting went as well as it could have done."

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