Last week, former President George W. Bush spoke to a packed Mayborn Campus Center bursting with more than 2,800 students, faculty and staff members, UMHB donors and close friends of the university leadership.
Following his acceptance of an honorary doctorate of humanities to match the ones his parents, former President George H.W. and first lady Barbara Bush also received from the university, he was greeted by a long, thunderous standing ovation.
“I am so honored to receive an honorary degree. I noticed it is not a doctorate in the English language,” Bush joked. “When I was president, sometimes I could have put things a little more artfully. They asked me at the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks about Osama bin Laden, and I said, ‘we gonna get him dead or alive.’ Laura, when I got back to the residence, said, ‘You could have been a little more diplomatic.’ And I said, ‘At least they heard me in Texas.’”
Dr. Stephen Crawford who is a professor of music and the conductor of the percussion ensemble was among the faculty members in attendance at the Feb. 11 event. He was thankful he was able to listen to Bush on the campus he serves.
“I felt that it was such a privilege to hear from a former president. His words were uplifting as he shared his ideas on service and how important his faith is in setting his views,” he said. “We so enjoyed his humor and how he related to our university and community.”
Junior business major Jessica Pitcaithly echoed Crawford’s sentiments.
“I thought having George W. Bush speak at our school showed me how proud I am of our school and our country. To be able to come together and be excited about hearing one of our past presidents gave me a lot of school pride and patriotic pride too,” she said.
She was struck by his down-to-earth demeanor and agreed with the conservative and spiritual viewpoint most Americans associate with Bush.
“He was funny, genuine and was a great example of what a Christian leader looks like and I think we need more of that,” Pitcaithly said.
Savannah Davis, a junior education major was impressed with the humility she believes Bush displayed. She was also impressed that an important world leader would have a sense of humor.
She said, “I thought it was a great experience getting to see George W. Bush and hear him speak. For being the former leader of the free world, he was very humble and surprisingly funny.”
Davis said the part of Bush’s talk that spoke the most to her was when he spoke of the United States’ humanitarian efforts during his and other presidencies throughout American history.
“I liked how he spoke of empathy because I agree that having empathy is an essential part of being a leader,” Davis said.
Although the speech was generally light-hearted eliciting constant laughs from the audience, things did get serious when he spoke about Islamic terror organizations such as ISIL.
His comments went viral in the days after his campus appearance thanks to both traditional and unconventional media outlets.
Bush said, “Evil is real…. There is no light gray. Murdering innocent people to move a political point of view has been, is and always will be evil.”