Presidential invitation brings local pastor to VIP meeting

Presidential invitation brings local pastor to VIP meeting

The Rev. Mark Smith first met President Bill Clinton in the early ‘90s, when a group of youth led by the pastor performed a musical selection for a White House function while Clinton was still the leader of the Free World.

“It was really a great program – called ‘Let’s make music, not trouble’ and it was very compelling,” Smith said. According to him, while he was heading the group, he faithfully wrote letters to the White House for two years before he got the call he was looking for. “They finally called and invited us to perform at the White House for the president’s guests; it was truly an honor.”

That honor was not relegated to only Clinton’s term in the White House, however, as Smith told of events where the first President Bush was entertained, as well as other dignitaries, governors, and leaders of state and national politics. Smith said President Clinton was unable to make the group’s Washington performance, but in the weeks after the group’s trip to the Oval Office, correspondence grew between the two men and they became fast friends.

“Whenever President Clinton comes to Texas, he invites me to whatever event he is going to,” Smith said. “I travel as part of his entourage and we get together and talk about current events and so forth, or whatever is going on in the world.”

It came, then, as no surprise to Smith to get the invitation to attend a Houston-area conference where Clinton was on the list of special guests expected to be in attendance.

“(Clinton’s) aides called and asked if I would attend, and of course I said I would,” Smith recounted. “It was a week-long conference, but I only went for the session where the President would be.”

Smith said that at the conference, which was held in March at the Houston Hilton Americas as part of IHS’ CERAWeek, he “met a lot of interesting people from all over the globe.” According to information from IHS, the multi-day conference culminated in the event Smith attended, where Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush were featured in a forum moderated by IHS CERA’s chairman and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin. The former presidents were invited to speak on, among other things, “perspectives and insights focused on the changes and challenges ahead for the global political and economic system.”

Smith said Clinton was very insightful in the message he delivered while answering queries from the moderator.

“He gave paragraphical answers and really put a lot of thought into his words,” he said. “His delivery was very impressive and you could tell he meant what he was saying.”

In private discussion with Clinton, Smith said the former president regaled him with stories of his current endeavors and aspirations for the future.

“He is very excited about what he is doing with his global initiatives,” Smith said, adding that Clinton has been busy attending to needs of those suffering from the global natural disasters that have sprung up in countless locales over the past months. “These are the things he holds very dear to his heart. He loves what he is doing and he is staying busy. He wouldn’t have it any other way.”