WASHINGTON — It was take-your-daughter-to-work day. I worried I was boring my 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, to death.

Not that I want her to grow up to be a journalist — she's smarter than that. But running around on breaking stories made us skip a fun event we had planned to attend — where she would have met several women gold-medal winners who are fighting drug abuse.

While she had to sit and watch me write at the computer, the fax machine delivered an invitation that could salvage the day. A GOP women's group sought coverage of a speech by George W. Bush. So Sarah could see the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Sarah had a bonus by seeing something that has become too rare in modern politics: a presidential candidate seeming to truly explain why he personally wants to become president.

Too many seem to dodge that obvious question. They talk around the edges of it by addressing issues that polls suggest are of interest at the moment. Or they use speeches to blast opponents.

But rarely do they talk about what made them decide deep down to take on overwhelming opposition and criticism to try to become president — and what they really hope to do if elected.

Bush spoke in a setting that didn't appear promising. Other presenters — including Texans brought in to talk about his work as governor there — were all talking stiffly from prepared texts in a "living room" set on a stage that seemed silly and fake.

But Bush didn't stick to a script. With a slow Texas twang, a sideways smile and plenty of impromptu jokes, he seemed to talk from the heart — which connected with his audience of GOP women.

"I look forward to rallying the armies of compassion and calling upon the best in our country," he told them.

"In order to become a president, there has to be a compelling reason. My reason is: I want the American dream to touch every willing heart," he said.

That may read like typical, smooth political rhetoric in a newspaper. But Bush's delivery made it seem sincere — and that he wants to make America greater through personal efforts of its people, rather than creating more government programs.

"If you can change people's hearts . . . you can change their lives," he said. "Governments aren't very good at changing people's hearts."

He added, "I can't think of any better way to ensure that the American dream touches every willing heart than to make sure every child can read, make sure that children know the difference between right and wrong, and make sure that people coming up in our society know that somebody loves them, somebody cares, somebody wants them to succeed."

He said he wants to rally a compassionate army of volunteers from the bully pulpit of the presidency to accomplish that — and praised groups that tutor students, discourage premarital sex and drug use, and all those who help the needy — including church groups.

"It is important in a free society to recognize that we welcome people of faith into helping people with needs," he said. "When you help someone else, you really only help yourself."

Bush sees some role for government in his dream, too. For example, he noted that he has pushed to hold public schools to higher standards — saying allowing low achievement in poor or racially diverse areas "is actually bigotry."

He said such a drive to change America would begin "first and foremost with a leader who will bring honor and dignity in the White House, and in turn ask the best of Americans. I can't wait to be president."

So how well might that play with Americans? My daughter couldn't resist joining in with the standing ovation — even though I had explained that journalists by tradition don't do that, and don't clap to avoid appearing biased.

But, "It was great," she said. So Bush managed to excite her about politics and his dream. At least it didn't overly excite her about being a journalist. As I said, Sarah is too smart for that.


Deseret News Washington correspondent Lee Davidson can be reached by e-mail at leed@dgs.dgsys.com