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If you like George H.W. Bush's story, you might also like:
Jimmy Carter,
Tom Clancy,
Colin Powell,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Shimon Peres,
Norman Schwarzkopf
and Alan Simpson

George Bush also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

Related Links:
George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
The White House
Bush Library Foundation

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George H.W. Bush
 
George H.W. Bush
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George H.W. Bush Interview

41st President of the United States

June 2, 1995
Williamsburg, Virginia

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  George H.W. Bush

What person inspired you as a young person?

George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
George H.W. Bush: Abraham Lincoln truly inspired me. It wasn't just the freeing of the slaves, he kept the Union together. Some people even forget that today. What I think inspired me was the fact that in spite of being the President of the United States he retained a certain down-to-earth quality. He never got to be a big shot, and he cared about people.

Was there a book that inspired you?

George H.W. Bush: One of the historians here in Williamsburg talked about War and Peace. I had to read that in school. It was an inspiring, lengthy treatise. I read it twice. It taught me a lot about life. There was a marvelous book by Salinger called Catcher in the Rye. There was a book about discrimination called Gentleman's Agreement. These books I think helped shape my life. But to be honest with you, not one book stands out as the defining book for me.

Was there an experience that changed your life?


George H.W. Bush: I think the major event that shaped my life was being a Naval aviator. I got my commission and wings at 18 years old, and then I went into combat at 19. And I think, as I look back on it, that whole experience probably shaped my life more than any incident, or any event. Although I remember when I was shot down in that war. I remember how terrified I was. And it made me feel close to my family, and to God, and to life, and I was scared.

[ Key to Success ] Courage



Then we lost a child, there was that incident, a four year-old little girl. It had a profound effect on me and on Barbara. You know, when you lose a child some families go apart. There's a common wisdom that the loss of a loved one for parents divides them later on. People cite divorce statistics. In our case it was just the other way around. And our family has been close, close, close. And Barbara and I have been married for over 50 years, and I think that horrible incident drew us even closer together.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
George H.W. Bush Interview Photo


If you had a tip to share with young people, what would that be?

George H.W. Bush: If I were to give advice to young people, high-achieving young people for example, I'd have to say, don't neglect your family. Politics is important, sitting at the head table is glamorous. Traveling around the world, trying to do something for world peace was wonderful. But...


Family and friends and faith are what are really matters in life. And I know that. I see it so clearly now. And so, as they climb the ladder of achievement, I'd simply say, remember what Barbara Bush told those girls at Wellesley: "What happens in your house is more important than what happens in the White House." And it's true. It's so 100 percent true. And that means we -- each of these achievers -- must find some way, not only stay in touch with family, but to help others who might not be blessed with family. To strengthen the American family.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream


It's family, and it's faith, and it's friends, and it's not the glamour of the Presidency, or the wonder of going to receive the Nobel Prize. All those are important, of course. But maybe it's just that I'm 71 years old now. It's family, and it's faith, and it's friends. I would tell them that. Don't forget that. In your brilliance, don't turn your back on your friends. Don't think you're entitled to something, because you're smarter than the next guy.

What does the American Dream to you?

George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
George H.W. Bush: The American Dream means being what you want to be. Achieving something. Giving it your all to achieve. But it means helping others. It means understanding that we are the kindest and most generous nation on the face of the earth. We've got huge social problems, I'm afraid that some bright young people today, and older people, don't really appreciate the blessings of living in the most decent, strongest, fairest, most generous country on the face of the earth. And I say that with some historical perspective. The American Dream means giving it your all, trying your hardest, accomplishing something. And then I'd add to that, giving something back. No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others.

How important is passion to achievement?


George H.W. Bush: Passion is terribly important. You've got to feel something strongly. If you don't feel something strongly you're not going to achieve. You're not going to go the extra mile. Passion is important in relationships. It's important in a man/woman relationship. Letting the other person know that you really love her and that you care. And so, it's a powerful word, but without passion, without really believing something, it's hard to achieve.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


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This page last revised on Feb 26, 2008 16:31 EST
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