It's a hard life, but someone has to do it.
I'm writing from frigid Chicago, where the air temperature is something around 20 degrees, and the wind chill is 50 below numbness. I'm here for the 100th Anniversary Edition of RSNA, and one must brave adverse conditions to attend so momentous an occasion.
If you are reading my illustrious blog, you must have some connection to radiology, and thus you've probably attended RSNA at least once. If so, you know that the most important part of the whole meeting is the parties that come after hours. In years past, the big vendors have put on some really incredible soirees, with open bars and buffets overflowing with prime rib and other expensive delicacies.
Then came the economic bust, and the parties became fewer and further between. But this year, there seem to be a few more than I've seen recently. In fact, I received about four invitations for tonight alone. Fortunately, the decision as to which to attend was quite easy. Zotec, our billing company, delivered the most incredible RSNA experience I've ever, well, experienced: An evening with former President George W. Bush in the Grand Ballroom of the Trump Hotel.
Zotec is apparently doing quite well; the teaser on the video screens behind the homey staging with two armchairs touted the processing of $1 Billion in charges. I'm not sure what the average percentage of their fees might be, but if we assume even a low 7%, the Law Brothers who run the company are raking in $70M. Not too shabby in this day and age.
Anyway, as a very good Zotec customer, Mrs. Dalai and I, as well as one of my former partners/new bosses were invited not only to the event, but to a photo-op with Mr. Bush as well. We arrived early, donned our wrist-bands, and queued up for our few seconds with the Man. We were most amused by the Secret Service agents with somewhat ill-fitting suits and earphones scoping out the crowd of mostly older docs and their wives.
When our turn for the photo came, the President turned and greeted us, and put his arm around Mrs. Dalai and I, and we all smiled for the camera. (I'll post it when it arrives in the mail.) In the process, I said, "Mr. President, we miss you dearly," to which he chuckled, and Mrs. Dalai followed up with "Can we get you back?" W chuckled again and shook his head. "I'd be going back alone!" To which we responded, "You would still have a lot of support." We said our goodbyes, and proceeded on to the Trump Grand Ballroom (which wasn't all that large...someone needs to be fired) where the armchair talk shortly commenced.
The format was informal, with Scott Law, Zotec CEO, sitting adjacent to the President on the stage. Mr. Law would ask a question, and Mr. Bush would answer, to enthusiastic applause. I won't try to reproduce the conversation, but several observations are in order. First and foremost, W is a witty, humble, and eloquent (yes, I said eloquent!) speaker. Over the course of the hour, we laughed and (almost) cried with him. We were taken to the heart of the Oval Office, Ground Zero, and the classroom in Florida where Mr. Bush was informed of the 9/11 attacks. In all of these scenarios, Mr. Bush conveyed a sense of duty to his country, humility in face of unimaginable responsibility, and fierce devotion to the defense of the nation he led for eight years. His goal after hearing of the airliners hitting the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, was personified as the protection of the little girl who was reading a story to him that fateful morning.
Having heard President Clinton speak at RSNA a few years back, I was struck by the huge discrepancy in the perception versus the reality of both men. Mr. Clinton, whom some think the greatest President ever, spoke in a disjointed manner, and spent much of the talk tooting his own horn about how much he had been doing for the poor in Third-World nations, and chastising us rich doctors to help. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, was witty, humble when the moment called for it, and proud when appropriate. And he spoke very clearly, very articulately, and again, eloquently. Those who have developed a visceral hatred of the man won't want to hear it, but W may well have been the most honest, loyal, and capable man to occupy the office in a very, very long time. He was labeled a "cowboy" and "stupid" by a media and a Leftist bunch that couldn't stand the fact that he didn't act like their vision of a Harvard-trained leader (he did receive an MBA from the Harvard Business School). For your information, President Bush used the word "strategy" about a dozen times, and he pronounced it properly.
I thank Zotec for giving us the opportunity to see how someone with character behaves when given the greatest and hardest task known, in contrast to what we have seen on the news daily for the past several years. I am humbled and honored to have been in the presence of a truly great man.
And I should also thank Zotec for doing a damn good job with our billing!