What an incredible experience it was to hear him speak last night! I always loved George and despite his current unpopularity, I still love him. I’d even venture to say that he was one of the greatest presidents in US history. He liberated thousands of oppressed people, protected us from terrorism, improved education, saved millions of lives in Africa that were threatened by HIV/ AIDS, and presided over a thriving economy in his first term thanks to one of the greatest tax cuts in history. Not only did he accomplish way more than people give him credit for and fail to realize what the country would be like had Al Gore been Commander in Chief on the darkest day of America, but he is an admirable, likeable person. Even the Dalai Lama attested to that (at Harvard when asked who his favorite US president was). I am so blessed to have seen him speak. I found his speech to be inspiring, humorous, intelligent, and surprisingly human.
One humorous story he told was from his early years of the presidency. He was in the Oval Office, sitting on a historically significant chair. It had been built custom for FDR (whom Bush greatly admires) when he didn’t want the public to know of his disability. So anyway, Bush was sitting on this chair, eating pretzels, and watching the Rangers’ game. He choked on a pretzel, passed out, and fell to the floor. He was given medical attention and restored to health quickly though. He returned to watch the game and the news of him choking was rolling on the bottom of the screen already! He was telling this humorous story in reference to how much privacy the job lacked, especially in comparison to the past (with FDR). He definitely seems to be enjoying life without the stress and the press!
Also, two of the topics he discussed made a strong personal impression on me. One was his story of overcoming alcohol with the help of God. He talked about how alcohol had become his god in many ways and how he overcame it, which enabled him to go on to great things. Having also overcame destructive forces in my life, I really related to him.
The other thing he said that made a huge impression on me was in response to a question from someone my age with similar concerns as me. He described his moral opposition and hesitancy to get involved in the political world, but Bush encouraged him of course. He essentially said that there will always be good if the good are involved. The essence of his response harkened back to one of my favorite quotes from Ronald Reagan, which goes something like “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.” I doubt I will choose that path, but I am considering the political world once more now. Like Bush and my other role models in politics, I hold passionate views and have distinct visions of what America should look like. I am not saying that I myself am good, because I know I’m far from it. I am saying that I love what is good though. I love this country, I love freedom, and I love the God who gave me both. I have always sensed how small my own life is and how important these big things are. Basically, I don’t want to live a life of serving myself when I can serve my country and my God instead.
President Bush shared many stories last night, my favorite being a particularly profound story from Romania’s induction to NATO. It was a rainy day, and there was a balcony that he was drawn to. He asked someone what it was, and he learned that it was where the tyrant gave his last speech (where the oppressed audience started chanting “liar”). Later that night after the rain had cleared and he, as the leader of the free world, had made Romania an official member of NATO, there was a huge rainbow. It was right over that same balcony. How beautiful is that? What an awesome feeling it must have been, to have lived a life dedicated to serving the noble cause of freedom? I know I’ll never be the president of the United States or anything close, but I hope to someday have come to that place in my life, that point where you know you’ve made a difference and changed people’s lives.
One last thing that also made a big impression on me- his faith. He made it a point to thank everyone there for their prayers, testifying that God truly helped him stay calm, strong in God, healthy, and clear headed through the presidency. His genuine love of God is something that I love about him. He shared a story from one of his trips to Africa. He visited young, teenage kids in an AIDS ridden country. These kids had lost loved ones to the disease, lived hard lives. Bush walked into a room with them and stated simply, “God is good,” to which they responded without hesitation, “all the time!” Not sure if he heard it correctly, he says it again. They say the same thing and he’s blown away. This was beautiful to hear and it made me reflect on my own faith and wonder if I would respond the same way if I was not as blessed as I am.
I will never forget last night. It was a greater honor than I can verbally express to have been in the same room as George W. Bush, a truly beautiful experience that I will never forget. I bought his book too- it’s called Decision Points and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants the truth on this fascinating president who served America well for 8 years :)