It’s not every day that you run into a US President walking through the high school lobby, but that was the surprise that greeted many faculty and students on May 18 when President George W. Bush visited ASIJ. President Bush made several impromptu stops on his brief tour of campus, popping his head into the library to call out “My wife was a librarian!” before wandering inside to greet staff and students. Outside, many passing teachers, staff and high school students were treated to handshakes and comments as President Bush visited the CADC, main field and weight room.
Following in the footsteps of his father and brother Jeb, who visited campus in 2007 and 2011 respectively, President Bush spoke to the entire high school student body in the ASIJ Theater. His humorous remarks also included a more serious message of being true to yourself and following your own path. He spoke about his recent interest in painting, which he came to late in life, and credited Winston Churchill, who painted while in office, as his inspiration. He said that although he was previously “agnostic about art” he now tries to paint everyday and “that at some point in time you have to ask ‘do I still want to learn?’”
Following his remarks, students asked questions on a variety of topics ranging from the current US primaries and presidential candidates—a topic President Bush could not be drawn to comment on—to issues of foreign policy and events during his presidency. President Bush spoke candidly about his experience of receiving news of the events of 9/11 while he was on a similar school visit and how his thoughts immediately were concerned with protecting the child he was reading with. “I vowed to do everything within the law to keep America safe, and the little girl reading stayed in my mind,” he added. The President’s thought-provoking comments on a wide range of topics provided insight into the work of the White House and the complexities of foreign policy.
President Bush’s visit was facilitated by alumnus Jin Roy Ryu ‘77, a friend of the Bush family who previously helped bring guest speakers such as former US Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as well as President George H. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to campus.
One student asked how the President thought his presidency would be remembered, to which he replied that there continue to be many volumes of history produced about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Adding, “If they are are still writing about One, then Forty-three doesn’t need to worry!”