The Words of a President
The lines were extended through the hall, out the door and around the building. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have gotten inside the building for the long wait before the main doors opened. After all, it was 92 degrees outside.
I had the opportunity to hear President George Walker Bush speak this past week at a conference. Since I have already heard Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton speak, I was looking forward to hearing the 43rd President of the United States give his remarks.
The doors opened and approximately one thousand people quickly filled up the room. Two giant video screens were on either side of the stage, which was good since it was a long way to the back row.
President Bush quietly walked out on the stage to a standing ovation. The group of restaurant executives was a pretty good crowd for him to work. He grinned and waved, seeming totally at ease. He sat in a leather chair next to the man who would be asking him questions. Then the fun began.
Quickly refusing to criticize the current president, Bush made it clear that he was the former president. His time was over and Bush wasn’t going to make it harder for his successor, even if President Obama has blamed Bush for many of the nation’s ills over the past five years.
If Bush had never been in politics, he could have been a comedian. He quickly established a connection with the crowd and had them laughing and applauding within minutes.
He wasn’t just clever, he was downright funny. You could sense that he was telling the truth when he said he didn’t miss the limelight at all. He seemed content and wasn’t worried how history might judge him. “Historians are still discussing Lincoln”, he said. “I’ll be long gone before history will know if I made the right or wrong decisions.”
He gave the highest of praises for his father. He praised him not only for his political and policy decisions, but for giving him unconditional love during his entire life.
President Bush’s discussion about the aftermath of 9/11, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the economic meltdown leading to the Great Recession were insightful. This was a man who surrounded himself with bright people and trusted them to give him the right advice. He is comfortable with his role in all those events.
He spoke for over an hour and kept the audience spellbound. I left feeling really good. Not because I had just heard a President of this country, but because I had just heard a human being who happened to be president during some very dangerous times for this nation.
It makes me feel good that real men, men with character lead this nation. That is more important that politics or party. History tends to judge kindly men of integrity. I expect that President Bush will be judged more favorably in years to come than in the present day.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]