When President Bush delivered his farewell speech to the nation
Thursday evening from the East Room of the White House, he invited an
interesting corps of American public servants to attend. People he’s
met over the years of his presidency.

As the White House Press Office memo says…

These individuals have demonstrated great acts of courage and compassion and have inspired the President.

Here’s a partial backgrounder on some of them:

Bob Beckwith, Retired Firefighter, FDNY (Baldwin, New York)
Bob Beckwith is a retired FDNY firefighter who met President Bush on
September 14, 2001, at Ground Zero in New York City.  Following the
terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and despite being retired, Mr.
Beckwith went to Ground Zero to aid fellow firemen and rescue personnel
to search for survivors amongst the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Zach Bonner, Recipient, Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Valrico, Florida)
Zach Bonner is the creator of the Little Red Wagon Foundation, Inc. 
Following Hurricane Charley in 2004, Zach collected supplies for
families affected by the storm, and his grassroots effort resulted in
the donation of 27 truckloads of supplies for families in need.  After
Hurricane Katrina, Bonner organized a toy drive and delivered the gifts
to children in hurricane-stricken regions.  In 2005, at age eight,
Bonner created the Little Red Wagon Foundation as a non-profit
organization to provide opportunities for kids to help other kids in
need.

Thomas Boyd, Graduate, Jericho Program (Baltimore, Maryland)
Thomas Boyd is a graduate of the Jericho Program, which is a program
sponsored by the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, a
non-profit, faith-based organization.  With funding from the Department
of Labor, the program helps men rebuild their lives and return to
positive productive roles.  Before entering the Jericho Program, Mr.
Boyd spent 20 years of his life using drugs and in and out of jail.  It
was not until his daughter spoke to him about her concerns for him that
he sought the help of this faith-based organization.

Keela Carr, Recipient, Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Apopka, Florida)
In 2007, Keela Carr visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington, D.C., and was profoundly affected by the service members’
sacrifice on behalf of all Americans.  In an effort to honor all
soldiers and veterans and thank them personally, Carr decided to walk
across the United States in what she called her Journey of a Thousand
Thanks.  Carr began in Barstow, California, on May 26, 2008, and walked
nearly 2,700 miles before completing her journey at Arlington National
Cemetery on August 8, 2008.

Connie Duckworth, President and Founder, Arzu (Lake Forest, Illinois)
Connie Duckworth is the President and Founder of Arzu, which is a
social entrepreneurship not-for-profit venture.  Arzu focuses on
designing, producing, and selling rugs hand-woven by Afghan women to
support education, health care and community-building projects in
Afghanistan.

Sergeant Neil Duncan, USA (Maple Grove, Minnesota)
Army Sergeant Neil Duncan was severely injured in Afghanistan on
December 5, 2005, when an improvised explosive device (IED) ripped
through his HMMWV.  Neil was seriously wounded as a result of the
explosion, and he lost both of his legs, shattered his jaw, broke his
elbow and hand, and sustained multiple shrapnel wounds.  President Bush
met Sergeant Duncan at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on July 24,
2006. On July 25, 2007, Sergeant Duncan visited the President in the
Oval Office and ran with him on the South Lawn.

Mike Gottfried, Founder and CEO, Team Focus (Mobile, Alabama)
Mike Gottfried is the Founder and CEO of Team Focus, which helps
fatherless boys age 9-17 by providing them with leadership skills,
guidance, and an ongoing relationship with a mentor through summer
camps and other events.

Lieutenant Eric Greitens, U.S. Navy Reserve; Recipient,
President’s Volunteer Service Award (St. Louis, Missouri)
Lieutenant Eric Greitens serves as a United States Navy SEAL and has
deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. 
After returning to the United States from Iraq in April 2007,
Lieutenant Greitens used his combat pay to help start the Center for
Citizen Leadership.  The program helps wounded soldiers pursue careers
in public service through a fellowship program called The Mission
Continues.

Shannon Hickey, Recipient, Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
At the age of 11, Shannon Hickey started a non-profit organization to
further the legacy of her favorite priest, Father Mychal Judge, a
chaplain for the New York Fire Department who was killed on September
11, 2001, when he was hit by debris from the World Trade Center. 
Mychal’s Message is dedicated to continuing the work of Father Judge by
meeting the needs of the homeless and sharing his message of
unconditional love with others.

And that’s just for starters…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....