Bush honors U alumnus

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

The last thing he expected to hear was that President George W. Bush would arrive in Utah on May 28 and recognize Pehrson for his volunteer service with AmeriCorps Youth Services Corps.

Bush arrived in Salt Lake City on May 28 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 in 2007 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 more than 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 reopened in January.

Pehrson spent several hours a day training students who arrived at the building. Perhson taught them about the history and role of certain rooms in the building. He also showed students the safety procedures and guidelines for the Capitol, such as who to reach if a visitor needed medical assistance.

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

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.

Pehrson will be continuing his service with AmeriCorp with the annual Youth Leadership Summit. The summit, which addresses issues of service and diversity, will last from June 10 through June 12. Pehrson is one of several team members who will help coordinate the event.

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 Utah to attend a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

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Tyler Cobb

Soon after arriving in Salt Lake City President George W. Bush gave U alumnus, Rick Pehrson, the President’s Volunteer Service Award pin for his 900 hours of community service.