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FILE - In this Jan. 20, 1989, file photo, President George H.W. Bush raises his right hand as he is sworn into office as the 41st president of the United States by Chief Justice William Rehnquist outside the west front of the Capitol as first lady Barbara Bush holds the bible for her husband. Bush died at the age of 94 on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty, File)

This is my 1,768th opinion column. It is also my last.

Permit me a few reminiscences.

Elizabeth Taylor, the movie star, was married to John Warner, the Republican senator from Virginia. She had expected to be a political salon hostess as mistress of Warner's vast Virginia estate, like in the movies. But she was often alone while Warner politicked on Capitol Hill.

Ben Bradlee, then editor of The Washington Post, and I, then president of the Washington Press Club, were hosting a cocktail party for the American Society of Newspaper Editors at the Kennedy Center. I was to escort Taylor around for the evening. She looked at my lavender polyester blouse with a bow at the throat and glowered. "You're wearing my color. But I'll forgive you if you keep me in three fingers of Jack Daniels all night."

When Warner showed up, late, he whispered to her, "Elizabeth, I think you've had enough." She turned with the studied purpose of an immense ocean liner and hissed, "I'll tell you when I've had enough. Ann, three more fingers."

I covered the White House full time as a reporter for more than 20 years and had the amazing privilege of often traveling abroad with the presidential entourage.

Once I complained to President George H.W. Bush that my elementary-school-age daughter did not believe I went to the White House every day because he had not called on me at his last two news conferences. He sat down at his desk, pulled out an ivory card embossed at the top with "The White House" and wrote, "Dear Kirstie. I do know your mother. Love, George."

The same President Bush hosted the G-7 group of richest nations and decided to have it at a Texas rodeo. He gave every leader a pair of cowboy boots. Thatcher showed up in a suit, stockings, her own pumps and white gloves. As the leaders sat by the dusty bleachers, a young woman wearing a few strategically placed sequins rose out of a trapdoor in the arena floor in front of them riding a horse bareback and waving a huge U.S. flag. The prime minister was appalled. Neither was she impressed with the armadillo race, bull riding, barrel racing, calf scrambling, an Old West village, cowboys and Indians, oil rigs, square dancing, a model of the space shuttle, horseshoe contests, 1,250 gallons of barbecue sauce and jalapenos, 500 pounds of onions, 5,000 servings of cobbler and carrot cake or 650 gallons of lemonade and iced tea.

When Bill Clinton was running for president, I was on the press pool when he barnstormed my hometown of Springfield, Ohio, which Karl Rove would later turn red for George W. Bush. My entire family came to the Clinton event — to see me. Later, Clinton would say at a white-tie dinner in Washington, "If I had as many brothers and sisters as Ann McFeatters does, Hillary would have won Ohio."

I covered every inauguration from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. I covered them in blizzards, with pneumonia, with boots that left my feet bloody, with new technology that refused to work, with M&Ms the only food I ate for 20 hours, with a ball gown over leggings and galoshes.

And then, often messy but always fascinating, came watching the arduous complicated work of governing.

Being a witness to history has given me enormous satisfaction and immense gratitude to the vital, fun and increasingly difficult profession of journalism. There is always a feeling of awe that a peaceful transition of power happens. And the joy of being at the right place at the right time. It has been at times frustrating, always enlightening and humbling.

But most of all, I am grateful to the amazing journalists I have known. They have kept the flame of liberty burning, and, we must all hope, they will be able to continue to do so.

Tribune Content Agency

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