The Miami Herald
Sun, May 17, 2009

President Obama's sometime pastor is a Pedro Pan veteran


REV. LUIS LEON: President Obama's sometime pastor is a Pedro Pan veteran
NAME: Luis Leon
DATE OF ARRIVAL: Aug. 19,1961

The plight of Operation Pedro Pan has reached the highest circles of power.

Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's Church across from the street from the White House, arrived in the United States though the famous child exodus.

''I don't think President Obama knows my story,'' said Leon, 58, who has hosted the President twice this year -- for a preinaugural service and Easter Sunday.

But previous previous president George W. Bush knew the Episcopalian clergyman had been sent in 1961 alone from Cuba by his parents who feared how he would fall under Communist indoctrination. ''He talked to me about it during a function at the White House,'' he said. ``He was very interested.''

Operation Pedro Pan seriously impacted the Leon family, all but disbaning it.

His father died in Cuba in 1963 after his children left the island, and by the time his mother made it to the U.S., Leon was at the Berry Academy in Georgia and his sister was off to college, all thanks to the Catholic church.

His mother landed a job at Agnes School College in Decatur, GA. and they saw each other on weekends, ''We did not live together again as a whole family,'' he said. ``The clan was never regathered. That bothered my mother, that she could not be a mother hen and regather the flock.''

He says he had no resentment toward his parents; "They did the right thing.''

But adds: "I don't know if I could do the same thing for my children.''