Bush honors U alumnus

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

When Rick Pehrson got a phone call from the White House on May 23, he thought it was his friends playing a joke.

The last thing he expected to hear was that President George W. Bush would arrive in Utah on Wednesday and recognize Pehrson for his volunteer service with AmericCorps Youth Service Corps.

Bush arrived in Salt Lake City early Wednesday afternoon aboard Air Force One. After stepping off the plane at Utah’s Air National Guard base, the president shook hands with Pehrson and handed him the President’s Volunteer Service Award pin for his 900 hours of work with AmeriCorps.

“I’ll never wash this hand again,” said Pehrson, a U alumnus.

Pehrson graduated last fall with a degree in political science, and starts classes at the U’s law school this fall.

“When I graduated, I decided I could do two things with my summer: work or volunteer,” he said. The choice to train over 1,300 volunteers through AmeriCorps was a life-altering choice, he said. Pehrson trained volunteers to give tours of the Utah State Capitol Building after it was reopened this January.

As he shook the president’s hand, Pehrson said he told Bush that he supports him. Bush responded by saying he supports the service Pehrson has done, and that AmeriCorps is something he feels very strongly about, Pehrson said.

“I’m so very proud of him,” said Lindy Pehrson, Rick Pehrson’s mother. He has done tremendous service, she said, but the U is where his heart is.

In 2007, Pehrson ran for president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah with the Forward Party. He lost the election to Spencer Pearson. After greeting Pehrson, Bush entered a limousine with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..

Bush was in the state to attend a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

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Tyler Cobb