The former security guard from rural Illinois walked into a tent behind the Lincoln Memorial and gave a bear hug to the man who would soon become the most powerful leader in the world.
“Hey, Donald Trump,” said Shane Bouvet, with all the casualness of a 24-year-old.
The president-elect beamed back: “This is the greatest guy.”
The unlikely meeting occurred after Trump said he read a profile of Bouvet in The Washington Post and was impressed by his story. Bouvet, a struggling single father, had spent nights working and days volunteering on Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign.
The volunteer efforts earned Bouvet an invite to an inaugural ball. But just weeks ago he was unsure he could pay for a proper suit and shoes to wear for the festivities. A friend stepped in and bought a suit and got the shoes donated.
Now, improbably, it was the night before the swearing-in and Bouvet had picked his way past the Secret Service and was hanging out with the president-elect, top Trump advisers Reince Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon and the first-lady-to-be Melania Trump. The meeting occurred in a holding room just minutes before Trump was to take the stage for pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
Tears welled in Bouvet’s eyes. Trump signed an autograph for Bouvet. Then, they decided to call Bouvet’s father in Stonington, Ill.
“Hey, Dad,” Bouvet said with the call on speakerphone. “I’m with Donald Trump.”
“Hey, Don, you have a great name,” Trump laughed, complimenting Bouvet’s father on the name they shared. “You have a good boy.”
After the call, Trump signed an autograph for Bouvet’s 4-year-old son. Trump asked Bouvet if he was still with the mother of his child. Bouvet said no, and the thrice-married Trump said, “That happens.”
Then he looked at the autographs he had scribbled, and made a prediction: “After that, she’ll have you back. You’ll be a great celebrity.”
Eventually, Trump and his staff posed for photographs with Bouvet and offered him a round of applause. At the end, Trump put his hand on Bouvet’s back and told an aide, “Send him a check for $10,000.”
Bouvet broke down and cried.
With that and a round of goodbyes, an aide ushered Bouvet out of the tent. Bouvet wiped tears from his eyes as he melted back into the tens of thousands that had gathered for the concert.
“Did that just happen?” he asked out loud.