A few years ago, I had the privilege of chaperoning a small group of fourth- and fifth-graders who were greeting former President Jimmy Carter during his visit to Atherton, Calif., to encourage support for Habitat for Humanity. These 15 students, along with three of their teachers and I met President Carter at a private home before his reception with some “grown-ups.” The children had a lovely opportunity to talk to President Carter about his presidency and about his commitment to Habitat for Humanity. It was a wonderful little visit that fit well with our school’s focus on community service.
But probably more impressive to the students was the time they had with the Secret Service agents who were guarding President Carter. Several agents arrived early and waited with our students for President Carter’s arrival. As one might guess, the 10- and 11-year-olds were a little nervous and a little excited as they waited, all dressed up in their school uniforms (which their parents had probably told them to keep clean and neat). The Secret Service personnel were masters at keeping the kids entertained and focused as we waited. They talked about their work and how important it was to them to do their best for their country and former president. When one student commented on the dark suits they wore and questioned how easy it would be for someone to “infiltrate” their protection (my word, not theirs), the agent shared that each day they received secret directions about which lapel pin to wear and on which side to wear it. Our students were absolutely in awe of these men and for good reason. The agents were professional, knowledgeable, courteous and completely in control of this little group of students. Watching them in action I knew that I would completely trust them and their work for our country.
I believe my experience that afternoon in Atherton is much more representative of the Secret Service than the story we are hearing about a couple dozen agents who misbehaved this past month. Our Secret Service has a formidable task to perform, and they have proven themselves time and time again with President Obama and the many presidents who preceded him. I encourage all of us to slow down, take a deep breath and resist making generalized judgments based on the faults of a few. Some agents made poor decisions. No harm was done to our president. The agents involved will be removed. End of story.
BETH PASSI is a resident of Baxter and former head of Phillips Brooks School in Menlo Park, Calif.