2016 CUSHING ORATOR,
GEORGE W. BUSH
On May 3, 2016, President George W. Bush sat down with H. Hunt Batjer, MD, FAANS,
in front of a packed audience in excess of 2,800 to discuss topics ranging from his
relationship with his father, the hard lessons of 9/11 and a belief that America can
overcome its challenges no matter the current economic, social or political climate.
The two native Texans engaged in lighthearted banter as Bush
reflected on his childhood, emphasizing that it was a time
when “neighbors took care of neighbors.” He spoke fondly
of his father’s ability to place faith above all things, to accept
defeat with grace and to foster an independent spirit in his
children without casting a shadow.
When asked how the environment of the late 1960s — Bush’s
post-Yale years — framed his thoughts, Bush was quick to
remind his audience of America’s history of tough times,
citing the Martin Luther King Jr. riots, Vietnam and the Bobby
Kennedy assassination. He said, “America will always return
to its founding principles and reclaim its important role on the world stage.” In a clear
reference to the current discourse on America’s future vis-à-vis the presidential campaign,
he stated, “The institution of president is more important than its occupant. The institution
protects us in the long run. It is important to remember the history of the U.S. in order to be
optimistic about its future.”
Bush’s presidency will always be linked to the largest terrorist attack on American soil. In
response to Batjer’s question on the lessons learned from 9/11, Bush said, “Project calm.
Evil is real. And how others live matters.” Commenting on becoming a wartime president
overnight, Bush shared his insistence on the importance of wise counsel, a coherent
strategy and unwavering determination to follow through on a course of action once a
decision has been made. Several times during the interview, he referred to the children
of the Booker Elementary School second grade classroom (where he was promoting his
education program the morning of the attacks), emphasizing that every tough decision he
made in the wake of 9/11, he kept in mind the safety and future of those innocent lives.
At the end of the interview, the conversation turned to The Bush Institute. Since its
inception in 2013, George W. and Laura Bush have focused on several initiatives to
improve the human condition based on the principles of self-responsibility, freedom
and opportunity for all and the empowerment of women. “America cannot resort to
isolationism, protectionist policies or nativism,” said Bush. Rather, the U.S., must be
reminded that “democracy takes time” and look optimistically towards a future which
encourages partnership, leadership and liberty.