by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
March 29, 2003
ON WAR DAY, PRESIDENT'S NOTE ENCOURAGED NAVY GRAD
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Although the occasion received little coverage, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft's son Andrew graduated from Navy Officer Candidate School on March 20 from the Pensacola Naval Air Station. My longtime friend Dave McDermott's son Sean was his roomate, and when I had lunch with Dave on Thursday, he told me some nice stories and showed some snapshots.
Ashcroft the younger was a nice kid, but an average student, he said. Dave's son was No. 2 in the class and Commander of Cadets at the graduation ceremonies. The kids and their folks got to know each other over a few dinners during the past few months.
At the pre-commencement dinner, the Attorney General promised Dave a photo op at graduation, and profusely congratulated him on his son Sean's dedication. Sean, a skinny but strong former all-state wrestler in the 125 lb. class, apparently had impressed Ashcroft.
After graduation, Dave beckoned Ashcroft over to a camera for a snapshot, and the Secret Service held him off. Ashcroft waved him over and brushed off the security detail. Ashcroft jokingly refused the photo until Sean was called over to join them.
"This is his day, he's the celebrity today, not the dads!" he told Dave, a Nationwide insurance agent in my hometown of Lake Worth, Fla.
After the photo, Ashcroft asked Sean and Dave to wait for a moment and said, "I'm not just proud of my son and your son, but really proud. I was telling the President after a cabinet meeting about the grades and achievements of Sean, and he asked me to extend his personal congratulations." He then shook their hands.
At this point, Dave was pleased at the comments. Even if it was a pro forma gesture from an Administration official, it was still a great thing to say.
Then Ashcroft pulled an envelope from his breast pocket and handed it to Sean, with the comment, "The President thought this might be something you'd like to have."
It was a White House envelope. Inside was a letter on White House stationery, congratulating Sean, recalling the fine things the Attorney General had said about him, and wishing him well in his Navy career.
The letter was signed by the President and dated March 19, 2003 - the day the War in Iraq started.
Dave said the Attorney General told him that it was an extremely hectic day, but the President had handed it to him before he left for Pensacola, and wanted to make sure the young man received it.
American Reporter Correspondent Mark Scheinbaum is a former UPI newsman who is chief investment strategist for Boca Raton-based Kaplan & Co.