By Elizabeth P. Valk/Publisher
Updated December 25, 1989 12:00 PM

When you are the President of the United States, you can’t expect to get much downtime to relax and unwind. So the morning after his return from the Malta summit, George Bush was already moving at an all-out pace. His schedule that day included a meeting with his national security adviser and a report to his Cabinet. In between, there was another appointment the President meant to keep: He and the First Lady would sit down for a joint interview with PEOPLE magazine.

A White House interview at year’s end has been a People tradition since our birth nearly 16 years ago. Although this was George Bush’s first year-end interview as President-and the first time that he and Barbara Bush have met the press together in the Oval Office-the couple chatted with the graciousness and unself-conscious ease for which they have long been noted. Even when their conversation with managing editor Landon Y. Jones and Washington bureau chief Maria Wilhelm ran overtime, the Bushes barely seemed to notice. The assembled Cabinet members waiting down the hall waited a little longer.

“We appreciate the opportunity to give our 29 million readers a personal glimpse of the President and First Lady that is unavailable anywhere else,” Jones says. At one point during the interview, for example, Bush laughingly reached for his wallet to prove that, trillion-dollar national budget or no, he does take the precaution of carrying some cash-because there’s no telling when the leader of the Free World might need a fresh set of pen-cell batteries or be called on to pick up an unexpected restaurant tab. (To find out how much Bush had in his pocket, see page 45.)

President and Mrs. Bush may be the most prominent among the 25 Most Intriguing personalities chosen for this special issue, prepared under the direction of senior editor Cutler Durkee. But we benefited from the same openness and accessibility accorded us by dozens of others who appear on these pages. Celebs, authors, heroes, scientists, bureaucrats and a seismic fish named Oscar-at year’s end and all year long, People stands for the power of many personalities. It’s a franchise we cherish.