After his presidency, at the age of 65-years old, former president George W. Bush said he found his calling in oil painting.
To him, this newfound artistic passion represents the importance of lifelong learning and personal growth – two topics he addressed at the student-led Q&A forum in the Student Activities Center Monday evening.
This discussion with the 43rd Commander in Chief was part of Lipscomb’s 2016 launch year of the Imagine program, a series of discussions with world leaders that will take place over the next five years.
Bush’s visit was the first of what junior Larry Lodge said he hopes will be several encounters with influential leaders.
“Seeing him in this setting and having him come to Lipscomb to speak in such a casual way — we got to see him in a light that most people never get to see their president,” he said. “It’s important to remember that he’s a person too, just like us.”
Student Government Association President senior Jordan Beale and United States Navy Veteran senior Justin Avila led the Q&A portion of the evening. Students submitted over 100 possible questions during the weeks prior to Bush’s visit.
“I had a little bit of anxiety beforehand, but right before we went on stage, he and I had about two minutes together and he told me not to be nervous and that it was going to be a great time,” Beale said.
During the forum, Bush remarked that it was harder for him to maintain his faith when the pressure was off.
He said that when dealing with the pressure of the White House, consequential decisions and life and death situations, he used his faith as an integral part in making decisions.
“That is something that I really admire about him and how he conducted his presidency,” Beale said. “It’s remarkable, getting to hear the way that he is passionate about his faith and how he didn’t have to compromise that even though he was in such a high profile role.”
Family was another part of his life that was never compromised, he said.
Bush let the audience in on how he proposed to his wife three months after they met, saying that at the age of 31, there was no reason to wait before popping the question.
He also said that his wife was notorious for bringing warmth and love into the White House – a place he described as “living inside a museum.”
“Hearing him talk about his wife and his daughters, when he mentioned women he said that he hoped gender wasn’t something that separated anyone in the work force,” junior Rebecca Shannon said. “I liked his vulnerability and loved getting to see this side of him.”
Bush’s vulnerability and compassion were also evident when discussing past and present politics.
The former president said that during the 9/11 attacks it was important for him to remember to stay calm and assure the public.
Imagine Student Leadership Team member senior Ezra Fritz said this was a really deep part of Bush that he never expected.
“Lessons that we learn from that are fast-fading away like he said and a lot of people are starting to think about 9/11 as just a date on a calendar.”
But it isn’t just a date on a calendar, according to Bush; it’s an event that will forever shape and unify the country.
Discussing the upcoming presidential election, Bush mentioned that throughout history there have been solvers and exploiters.
He said that it’s important to select a leader that notices anger and works to find a solution rather than notices anger and works to exploit it.
Out of all topics discussed, Bush emphasized the importance of students using their right to vote.
“To keep being active in politics and in our cities and here in our schools, there are a lot of things we can do here at school to keep being involved in the future,” said junior Addison Groves, Imagine Student Leadership Team member.
Philanthropy donations to advance campus programs
Among the night’s events were celebrations of student philanthropy donations – over $7,000 raised in total.
In order to get into the event, students had to donate $15 to either the IDEAL program, Veteran Education program or Global Missions program.
Other financial donations were accepted but not required.
The student body raised $1,821 for Global Missions, $2,412 for the IDEAL program and $2,910 for the Veteran’s Education program.
Photo courtesy of Kristi Jones, Lipscomb University
Additional reporting by Erin Turner