Oval Office Visitor : An Ailing Valley Youngster’s Wish Comes True; He Goes to Washington and Meets the President

Times Staff Writer

For 12-year-old Jeffrey Baird of Van Nuys, meeting the President was not really his first choice. He wanted to be President.

But that was not so easily arranged, so on Monday, the blond seventh-grader went to the Oval Office to shake hands with President Bush.

“Until I actually met him, I couldn’t quite grasp it,” Jeffrey said. “Then, when I actually saw him, it dawned on me. This is the President of the United States, and a 12-year-old Valley boy is meeting him.”

That, Jeffrey conceded, “is not usual.”

The visit was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which tries to fulfill the dreams of terminally ill children. Jeffrey suffers from cystic fibrosis.

Initially, he told the foundation that he wanted to be President so that he could make government executives “really do something.”

But he realized that might be a little difficult for the foundation to manage, so he agreed to the substitute.


Mother Worried

His mother, Doris Baird, worried that even meeting the President would be impossible.

“I thought Make-A-Wish was probably going to call me and say, ‘What was the backup wish?’ ” she said.

Jeffrey, who already had backed up one wish, made clear that there were some substitutes he would not accept. Staunchly conservative and pro-business, he said he told the foundation that if Michael Dukakis were elected, “call it off, because I wouldn’t meet a Democratic President.”

As it turned out, the experience was all he had hoped it would be.

“When we landed in Washington, D.C., National Airport,” he said later, “waiting there was a guy dressed very nicely with a little sign that said ‘Jeffrey Baird.’ He took me to a limo.

“It was gray, and it had leather seats and bar lights and a bar and a swivel TV and a moon roof. It was so nice.”

Oval Office

When he reached the Oval Office, he related, Bush “came over and said, ‘Is this Jeffrey Baird? Oh, hello.’ ”

It was, Jeffrey said, “really neat.”

Jeffrey gave the President an antique serving dish his aunt picked out for the occasion.

Bush gave him a presidential tie clasp and lapel pin, then took his guest for a stroll in the White House rose garden.

Following his visit with the President, Jeffrey was taken with his parents, brother and sister on a special tour of the White House and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

They will visit the Department of Engraving and the Treasury Department later this week.