BCA First Person: Michael D. Crain
When I am forced to roll through my resume and I mention my days in the administration, people always want to know what it was like working for President Bush. I say what I think most do which is that I was fortunate to work for someone so principled, someone who cared deeply about the people of this country and someone who understood the gravity of the office. Especially in light of today’s political environment, I am thankful I was able to play a small role in that Administration. When someone posts a memory on social media or the rare occasions where I have a chance to see old colleagues, I still am amazed at the experiences I was afforded while I served – the places I was able to see and the historic moments I witnessed.
Then, of course, it hits me. What made that whole experience worth it were the people. People dedicated to a common cause. People willing to make many personal sacrifices for the greater good. People – no, friends – who walked the walk together. Still today after so many travels, some of the smartest people I have ever met are those I worked with during those days (and many sleepless nights) supporting President Bush in Washington and from so many corners of the globe. When I am able to reconnect with friends from the Administration, it is almost as if time never passed and we immediately start reminiscing about those glory days. If I had to name everyone with whom I shared a laugh, who stretched me professionally, challenged me to be a better person or who had my back, I would need pages and pages and pages. That’s the type of teamwork and dedication that still resonates with me today and created memories I cherish.
While in D.C., I did Advance for President and Mrs. Bush, served at HHS, the 2005 inaugural, the RNC for the re-elect, Commerce and eventually landed at State, serving as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. I advanced Secretary Gutierrez’s trip to Beijing in June 2005 and it would be putting it mildly to say the visit was a challenging one. Beijing had a heat wave and if you know anything about Beijing, you know the people there don’t like to be cold. This Texas boy found it difficult to find an air conditioner anywhere. Secretary Gutierrez was coming to attend the U.S.- China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) and the Chinese were none too happy to have those sensitive conversations about trade.
Whatever made me say, “yes” when Ambassador Sandy Randt asked me to come serve as his chief of staff is still a large mystery. But there are those moments in life when you look back and realize God really did have a plan. Joanna and I had an amazing 3-year-run at the Embassy with countless visits from D.C. friends, serving as the lead officer for the President’s visit to the 2008 Olympics (the first time a sitting U.S. President had visited an Olympics on foreign soil), inaugurating a new embassy with President George H.W. Bush as the honored guest and too many Chinese banquets to recall. We spent another five years there where we created a charity event, which to date has raised over $1 million for over 35 Chinese charities, I spent time at an international law firm facilitating inbound/outbound investment and Joanna established a business helping executives traveling to China. No doubt in our minds though, the greatest thing we did there was adopt our twin Chinese daughters.
After eight years, we moved back to Fort Worth in 2014 just in time to put Mackaylee and Mackenzie in kindergarten. While we loved our Beijing experience, we knew we wanted M&M educated in the U.S. so they could fully understand the honor of being an American. Joanna continued her business helping executives traveling to China and now helps Chinese traveling to the U.S. After a short stint at a not-ever-to-be-named-again tech startup, my desire to concentrate more locally opened the door to real estate, which led to investing in a restaurant franchise. I’ve recently satisfied my itch for public service by signing on as the District 3 Director with the Fort Worth City Council (so yes, I have a total of three full-time jobs). Joanna and I have both found ourselves involved up to our eyeballs in many of our passion causes and have even established a charity here based on the same fundraising model we started in China. With the addition of Ainsley Blue in January, the Crain Clan is complete.
The boy of 27 who persuaded Maria Cino to give him an internship on the campaign in 1999 seems a world away now. Life is so different on this side and it is hard to believe almost two decades have passed since that initial Presidential campaign in Austin and nearly nine years since many of us turned out the lights on our last day in the George W. Bush Administration. I was 7,000 miles from Washington in cold, smoggy Beijing when I escorted Ambassador Randt to the airport that January 20th, but I am sure I shared the same emotions as many of my colleagues. I’m not ashamed to admit that I fought back tears as I hugged him and Mrs. Randt one last time as diplomats on Chinese soil. I think we were both somewhat elated that a chapter was closing and apprehensive about what lie ahead. Without a doubt, we were honored to have served a great President and to have witnessed pieces of history from a front row seat. I know I’ll never work for such an honorable leader, nor with such a rag-tag group of people ready to change the world. I’m thankful for those memories, for those who helped make them and for the opportunity to serve our great nation.
Now back to my Taylor Swift-loving girls, crying baby, dishwasher that needs to be unloaded and trash longing to be taken to the curb (and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything in the world).