An American Dream
John C. Morgan’s was an unlikely career path. From Christian recording artist, to appliance salesman, to impersonator of the President of the United States.
After working in his family’s appliance store for 25 years, the George W. Bush look-alike’s life was transformed.
“I was volunteering at a George Bush rally in Orlando when one of his staffers said ‘Hey, you look like ‘Dubya.’” As George Bush became the nominee and then was elected president, John heard this comment on a regular basis.
Becoming George Bush
It wasn’t until 2003 that a friend mentioned there was an industry of look-alikes and encouraged John to pursue a career as a George Bush impersonator. John thought the idea was ridiculous, but at his wife’s encouragement, his heart opened, just a little, to the idea. Then the real turning point came.
John had the thought, “What if God made me look like George Bush because he wants me to do this?” That thought was a paradigm shift. “I fasted, prayed and asked God straight up ‘Do you want me to become a George W. Bush impersonator?’ The Holy Spirit spoke into my heart as clear as though it were audible and said ‘Yes!’ I knew God was indeed asking – commanding – me to do this.”
"I guess you could say I’m a fake, a fraud, a sham. I pretend to be someone I’m not. A lot of people wear masks for a lot of reasons, but I make a living walking in someone else’s shoes"From the book, My Life as a Bush… and my heart for imitating Jesus, by John C. Morgan
John videotaped the president, practiced imitating his voice and mannerisms and created a comedy routine around the president’s foibles. He built a website, and within four months landed his first client—IBM. The 2004 election was in full swing, and his phone rang off the hook. It was a swift and steep rise to celebrity.
“I wound up going on a major Christian rock-n-roll tour with Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeremy Camp and all these great Christian artists. It was like the dream I had 30 years earlier coming true in this weird manifestation. God gave me my dream, but He gave it to me much better than I ever imagined. He gave it to me in a way that there was no mistaking it was Him. It was just amazing.”
America’s Got Talent
God also used this time of celebrity to develop John’s character. In 2008, as he was preparing to audition for America’s Got Talent, John ignored wise counsel from Terry Fator, the gentleman who won the competition the year before. Terry advised, “Bring your ‘A Game’ to the audition.” John disagreed, arguing that if he used his best material for the audition, he wouldn’t have anything to use later in the competition. He thought “I am good enough to get past the audition with just raw talent.” But he was wrong.
“When I walked on stage, in front of a huge audience in Dallas, Texas, I was George W. Bush, the home town hero. The place went nuts. The audience sprang to its feet and started clapping, and the cheering got louder and louder. The judges were shocked. Finally, I thought, ‘I better start my routine before I run out of time.’ It was the stupidest thing I could have ever done. I interrupted that display of love and affection—for all they knew it was George W. Bush himself—and started doing my routine for the judges. The people must have thought ‘We are pouring our hearts out for him and he doesn’t even care about us,’ because the cheers turned into boos and the jeers were piercing. Finally the judges hit their buzzers and threw me off the stage.”
John learned a painful lesson. As John Maxwell said, “Talent is never enough. It takes talent plus hard work.” John admitted, “I failed in the hard work department. I blew it. I could have owned that audience so easily if I’d been willing to bring my ‘A Game.’ In my folly, I chose to hold back, but I learned an important lesson.”
This lesson has become a message he brings to corporate and church audiences. Number one, never stop loving your audience and number two, always, always, always bring your “A Game.” Whether you are in a football game, a conference room or at home with your family, bring your best; they are worthy of it.
End of the Bush Era
The election of 2008 marked the end of the Bush era in the White House and brought with it another important lesson. John said, “I did not adequately prepare for the change in presidents. When George W. Bush was president, my phone rang off the hook. I was constantly busy, making a lot of money and having a blast. In 2009 when we got a new president, in my naivete´ I thought ‘I am a good entertainer, so people will keep hiring me.’ But that didn’t happen. My phone just stopped ringing. When the thought hit me that I had bills to pay, I went into a mild state of depression. I sat on the couch for days on end and didn’t know what to do.”
John did get one phone call. As a result of having written his book My Life as a Bush and my Heart for Imitating Jesus, he was invited to speak to a group of Christian bookstore managers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As he was preparing for this engagement, he randomly came across a video clip from the movie Facing the Giants. He didn’t think anything of it until he was at a book signing in Tulsa. The store manager offered him anything in the store as a gift. Looking up, he saw the book Facing your Giants by Max Lucado. The little memory buzzer went off in his head, having just seen that video clip, so he selected a copy of the book as his gift. The next day at church, the pastor gave a sermon called “Never Give Up.” In the middle of his sermon, the pastor showed a video clip of the exact same scene from Facing the Giants.
As John remembered that moment, he recalled, “I sat in my seat in awe of the lengths God would go to speak to me in order to pull me out of the darkness. I had been staring at the giant instead of staring at God. At the end of that sermon, I was back on my feet. I gave up my fear and boldly began to market the talents God had given me. God pulled me out of that dark night of the soul.”
Using the Tools God Gave Him
When he first launched his impersonator business, John thought it would be a strictly secular endeavor. It did not occur to him that there was any way it could be used for any Christian eventuality, but that was obviously what God had intended. “I’ve been able to share the Gospel in churches all around the world, as well as share messages of motivation with companies and inspiration at hospitals and schools. It has been an incredible opportunity to minister into the lives of other people. And it was so unexpected.”
When the audience gets all excited about being in the presence of somebody great, John said “I empower them to always be in the presence of somebody great. I let them know it’s not a big deal to be the impersonator of a president, and relatively speaking, it’s not that big of a deal to be a president. But, to be a Christian – that is a very big deal.”
John is writing a new book titled Authenticity inspired by a statement by George W. Bush—“My faith frees me to be me.”
"In my life, I spent years developing a false front to hide my insecurities and my fear of never being loved. But my faith freed me to become the person I am. It is fun to have the opportunity to talk about impersonating someone who is also not afraid to be who he is."John C. Morgan
Has John ever had the opportunity to meet the real George W. Bush? The answer is yes. It was a brief moment at an event where the president was speaking. John shared, “When it was my turn in the receiving line, I grabbed his hand and I said, ‘Mr. President, I am honored to be your look-alike.’ George Bush looked at me and said ‘Well, I feel sorry for ya.’”
“It is a blessing for me every time someone comes up to me and says I look like ‘Dubya.’ God freed me to be who I am in Christ. And then, He turned me into a Bush.”
By: Lisa Huetteman
Lisa Huetteman is Co-founder of Black Diamond Associates, Executive Coach, Speaker and Author of the book: The Value of Core Values: Five Keys to Success through Values-Centered Leadership.Read More Articles by Lisa Huetteman