My father and I had the honor of attending the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library last week. The night before the dedication, there was a good ol’ fashioned Texas style political barbecue for world leaders, former administration officials, and the major donors that funded the new museum and library. I could have sold everything I own and still not have afforded one of those tickets, but one of the major donors was gracious enough to let dad and I tag along.
When President Bush and Laura came out to speak for a few minutes at the dinner, it only took about thirty seconds of his genuine, no-nonsense but joyful delivery for me to realize how much I miss him being my president and how much I truly detest the pompous, scripted, fake personality that occupies the office currently (but I digress).
As President Bush spoke I was reminded of my encounters with him and how genuine he was each time.
As a twenty-year old law student, I wanted to be a sports-agent long before Jerry MaGuire was a box office hit. Bush was president of the Rangers and speaking at an event in San Antonio, so I drove down with a resume and letter tucked away in my coat pocket. Surely I could convince him to give me a job working for the Rangers! It was not to be, but I loved his response: “You drove all the way down here just to hear my speech? Boy, you need to get a life.”
Get Over Here Ugly
Six years after my failed efforts to join the Rangers back office, Bush was running for re-election as Governor and I was running for the legislature. Kara and I stood in line at a fundraiser to get a picture with he and Laura. When it was our turn, he told Kara she looked beautiful and told me “hey ugly, get over here and let’s get this done!” He put his arms around us like we were old buddies and chit chatted with us even though he knew we could do nothing to help his campaign and were in fact asking for his help with our campaign.
“I’m a conservative too, Rick,” said then Governor George W. Bush from across his desk to this way too young at the time freshman legislator. “And I’m also practical about what we can get done this legislative session.”
It was my first, one on one meeting with the Governor during the time we served together at the Texas Capitol and I was there in all my youthful brashness to let the man know I wanted school choice and a complete abolition of property taxes.
I came away from the meeting knowing two things about the man. First, he was far more intelligent than people gave him credit for and his “strategery” was well thought out and extremely effective. Second, this was not a politician seeking his name in lights; this was a man who genuinely wanted to make a difference and move the agenda forward.
Even though “conservatives” like myself often complained when then Governor Bush did not take on our pet projects, his disciplined ability to stay focused on the limited agenda he chose each session is a large part of the reason he was so successful as Governor. He passed the largest tax cuts in history, concealed carry of a firearm, pro-life legislation, tort reform, and a host of other great victories.
That same focus and determination is why he was able to resolutely keep our nation safe after 911 and finally take the war to the terrorists rather than only play defense.
He did help champion my bill to stop cities from suing gun manufacturers, blaming them for crime (as if spoon manufacturers are responsible for making us fat). When he signed my bill, he also signed a baseball for my kids…a nice touch!
What a Contrast: The Cowboy With Class Compared to the Egomaniacs
The official dedication of the library on Thursday morning included all five living American Presidents on stage and speaking. Presidents Carter and Clinton were as self-absorbed as ever and could only bring themselves to compliment the Bushes through thinly veiled attempts to sing their own personal praises and warped sense of accomplishment.
President Obama was as arrogant and “above it all” as ever and even had the audacity (of hope?) to campaign for his legislative agenda since Speaker Boehner and several Members of Congress were in attendance. It was embarrassingly classless.
Then the cowboy from Midland took to the podium as we gave him a standing ovation. His words are going to become standard operating teaching material for me at Patriot Academy when I’m training future leaders.
“The purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.”
What a contrast to the previous speakers (other than the 26 seconds from his Father). It reminded me of how President Bush always bragged on the military men and women on the ground and never once took personal credit for their success, while Obama starts every statement about military action or crisis response with “I ordered” or “I decided” or “Because I have determined.”
At the end of President Bush’s speech, his genuine gratitude for the opportunity to serve his fellow man was revealed, not through his words as much as through the emotion he could not contain. This was not the fake humility of Clinton or Obama’s dramatic wiping of a tear that did not even exist. Joseph Curl covered the White House for ten years and his take on those closing moments is a hint at what a special day it was:
Have you seen the “Miss me yet?” billboards of President Bush waiving and smiling? THANK YOU to whatever organization thought of that.
Yes, Mr. President, we do miss you and the library dedication was a good reminder of why.
We miss the honor and dignity with which you
represented our nation. We miss the moral clarity with which you spoke…I even miss the broken syntax with which you spoke it!
I would strongly encourage all my friends to visit the George W. Bush Library. You will be reminded of what happened on 911 and the evil we still face in the world. You will be reminded of the genuineness of George and Laura. And perhaps my favorite part… you’ll be reminded of what a real man looks like when he throws out the first pitch at a MLB game as president of the United States!
They even have the jacket he wore that night and the baseball he threw. Watch the video below for a great moment in American history!