George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Jeb Bush in Charleston, South Carolina

February 16, 2016

Thank you all. Laura and I are thrilled to be here. I want to thank Senator Graham for his friendship, for his leadership. Lindsey loves South Carolina, and he loves our country, and we're fortunate that you sent him up to the United States Senate.

I want to thank the singing Agriculture Commissioner. That guy's got a heck of a voice. If they ever have a contest about who can sing the best amongst the Ag Commissioners across America, you win. Mark Sanford is here. I appreciate Mark coming. Thank you very much for being here, Mark.

There's a lot of famous people here. I've got to bring up my friend David Wilkins; he's from Greenville. David was our Ambassador to Canada, former Speaker of the House, and a dear friend of Laura and mine. And we want to thank you David for coming down and being with us. Thank you very much.

There are people from the House and the Senate and State Government here. Thank you all for coming and appreciate you helping Brother.

I want to thank all the grassroots activists who have come. Thank you for taking time out of your day. Thank you for your interest in the political process. Thank you for your hard work for Jeb. Thank you for what you're going to do, which is to vote for him on Saturday here in the great state of South Carolina.

I'm really happy to be back in this great state. I've got a lot of fond memories. I walked in the Okra Strut in Irmo. I was pleased they didn't make me dress as an Okra Stalk. I fondly remember going to the 437th and 315th Air Wings here in Charleston.

Perhaps my most interesting memory came in Greenville before the 2000 primary. David and Susie and I and Laura went to Tommy's Country Ham House. And we were eating breakfast. As a matter of fact, I was eating some bacon. When I looked out the window and a PETA protester dressed as a pig pulled up in a dump truck. He unloaded a huge load of manure in the parking lot to try to prevent me from leaving. It was kind of a sign of things to come. But let me tell you something about the Ham House: even a steaming pile of manure can't ruin their good bacon.

I love the spirit of the people of South Carolina. I was particularly touched by the way your community banded together to comfort the victims of last year's shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church and then protest against racism and hate. It was a strong symbol.

And I applaud your Governor's response to that tragedy. And I applaud you for putting her into office. Laura and I spent time with Governor Haley and her family at the American Legion post in Columbia this afternoon. Thank goodness our country welcomed her parents when they immigrated here in 1969.

You know, since we left the White House I've been kind of quiet in the public square. Eight years in the limelight was plenty. And Laura and I are really happy in what she has described as "the afterlife. We're spending a lot of time on our ranch, where we've become tree farmers. Gives me a chance to practice my stump speech. I've written two books, which has surprised a lot of people, particularly up East who didn't think I could read, much less write. I've been one to defy expectations — I've been "misunderestimated" most of my life. And as a real shock to people, I have become an oil painter. But let me assure you, I know that the signature is worth more than the painting.

I want to thanks — thank my brother for giving us something to do today. Something important. I'm proud of his candidacy, and I'm really proud to have been invited. I came here for two reasons. One because I care deeply about Jeb, and two because I care deeply about our country. You know, I thought it was appropriate to discuss a subject I know a lot about: what it's like to be President. Being your President was a high privilege, and the honor of a lifetime. By the way, if serving as President of the United States makes me a part of the so-called establishment, I proudly carry that label. There seems to be a lot of name calling going on, but I want to remind you what our good dad told me one time: Labels are for soup cans.

The Presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas. And there's no doubt in my mind that Jeb Bush has the experience and the character to be a great President. Here are some things I think people ought to look for in their next President.  For starters, you ought to look to someone who has had executive experience. Someone who knows how to run a large, complex organization; to lead people; and to make sound, crisp decisions. For example, someone who served two terms in a large southern state as its Governor.

I think you ought to look for someone who can handle intense pressure and won't wither during crises. I believe that strength can come from faith. It can come from the comfort of a higher power and the humility that comes in realizing the Almighty's gift of grace. That humility is important for politicians to remember when they talk about their faith. One of my favorite Bible verses for those in the political arena is from the book of Matthew. To paraphrase, 'How can you say let me get that speck out of your eye, when I've got a log in my own?' Jeb is a man of humble, deep and genuine faith. Faith that reveals itself through good works, not loud words.

I think you should look for someone whose humility helps him understand what he doesn't know and surrounds himself with people who do know what he doesn't know. Jeb is plenty smart. Phi Beta Kappa from the great University of Texas. I know, it's not South Carolina. Okay, Clemson. Let me tell you something, he's going to assemble a great team of people to whom he'll listen. He'll create a culture in which they can deliver not just the good news but the bad. He'll listen carefully to their advice, and then he's got the backbone necessary to make the tough decisions on behalf of the American people.

The presidency is often defined by the unexpected. There's going to be crises, and it's important to have a president who can handle them with calm resolve. When Americans woke up on September 11th, we did not know that the world would forever change that day. I was sitting in a classroom in Florida listening to a child read. My chief of staff, South Carolina graduate Andy Card, whispered in my ear, "A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack." My first reaction was, I was hot. We're going to deal with these people. My second reaction, when I was staring at this young child, was that my job became crystal clear, and that was to protect her, her community, and her country. On the way to Air Force One from that school, Condi called me and said a plane had hit the Pentagon. I felt the first one was an accident, the second was an attack, and the third one was a declaration of war. I became something that no President should ever want to be, a wartime President. And I made a lot of tough calls — every one of them with that child's image in my mind, to protect her and the country she's fortunate enough to call home.

I've seen Jeb in action. He'll be a strong and steady hand when confronted with the unexpected. Multiple hurricanes hit Florida when I was President and he was Governor. He led a robust, well-organized response that showed the compassion — his compassion for those who hurt. He did this as Governor of Florida, and he will do this as President of the United States.

It is vital that you select a candidate who is thoughtful and trustworthy. Someone who says what he means and does what he says. When the American President speaks, the world listens. You can trust Jeb Bush to be measured and thoughtful on the world stage. Our enemies and allies will know that when President Jeb Bush speaks, he will follow through on his words.

I think you ought to look for a leader who is optimistic, with a vision for a brighter future. A person who can see beyond the horizon. When Jeb looks beyond the horizon, he sees a better tomorrow. He believes, and I believe, that America's best days are ahead of us. And that we're on the verge of the greatest time to be alive in human history. And with the right policies and with a strong leader like Jeb Bush, we can get there.

An optimistic future starts with making sure our economy grows so people can find good work. We need a president who will make the private sector, not public sector, a priority. Jeb has laid out an attainable goal — a clear and easy to understand goal, which is what a leader must do. And that is to have 4% economic growth a year. The cornerstone of his policy is to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners, the dreamers and doers who drive the American economy. He's laid out a specific plan, a well thought out plan, a measured plan that he will put into action when you send him to the White House.

Jeb understands that the most solemn job of the President is to protect us. So your most solemn job as voters is to elect a president who understands the reality of the threats we face, and who knows how to deal with them. I've studied Jeb's plan to defeat ISIS. He relies upon the military and our intelligence community. He will take their sound advice, and he'll implement that plan. The types of ISIS have been defeated in the past, and they can be defeated in the future, but we need a leader who knows how to do so. Jeb understands this, and it's important for the people of South Carolina to understand this: that America must lead, and that when America does not lead, chaos will reign.

Laura and I loved our eight years in Washington, but we really don't miss it too much. Oh, we miss our friends, but we don't miss power and fame. But here's really what I do miss. Thank you, but let me tell you what I miss. You know, it's an amazing country. I made it pretty clear we were going to defend ourselves after 9/11, and millions volunteered. And to be able to salute the brave men and women who wear our uniform was an honor of a lifetime.

The highest honor of being president is to be the Commander in Chief of the greatest force for freedom ever. So I would look for a candidate who has genuine respect for the United States military, who will support them on the battlefield — who will support them on the battlefield and when they return home. Jeb has pledged to rebuild our Armed Forces and overhaul the V.A. And I believe him when he says it, and I know he'll do it when he's the Commander in Chief of the United States.

One of the most comforting aspects of the presidency was my family. Starting with my loving wife, Laura. Living in the White House can be like living in a museum. I remember the time I went to visit Mother and Dad when they were there, and Mother said, "Get your feet off the Jeffersonian table!" But Laura made the White House a home. She was the greatest First Lady ever. My little sister, Doro, is here, and she talks to Mom nearly every day, so don't tell her I said that.

Jeb adores the love of his life, Columba. I'll never forget when we were both younger, living in Houston, Texas, and we'd go to the Astro games. And we'd sit out in the bleachers. I'd watch the game, and Jeb would write love letters to his future wife and our next first lady, Columba Bush.

They've raised wonderful children. Texas Land Commissioner George P., Noelle, and Jeb Jr. And like me, Laura — like Laura and me, Jeb and Columba are grandparents. He's known as "Gampy," and I'm known as "Jefe." For those not bilingual it means "the boss."

Speaking of family, I think the voters should vote for the candidate who has got the most opinionated mother. I've always wondered whether our mother learned to be opinionated at Ashley Hall right here in Charleston.

Finally, we need to nominate somebody who can win in November. All the sloganeering and all the talk doesn't matter if we don't win. We need someone who can take a positive message across the entire country. Someone who can inspire and appeal to people from all walks of life. Not just one party or one class of people. Jeb will listen to the voices of the disenfranchised. He will rise above petty name calling. And once elected, he will not need a poll or focus group to tell him how to think or what to do. He will stand on principle. He will not waver in the wind. And he will always do what's right for American people.

I know campaigns are stressful and taxing. But they should be. Because the job of the President is much harder than the campaign. These are tough times. And I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated. But we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration. We need someone who can fix the problems that cause their anger and frustration, and that's Jeb Bush.

It seems like Americans are yearning for a strong leader. I'd like to remind you and the voters what true strength means. Strength means facing challenges and prevailing. It means sacrificing and enduring, and emerging a better and bigger person. It means having a set of core principles — beliefs that are true on the campaign trail, and will be still true in office.

Strength is not empty rhetoric. It is not bluster. It is not theatrics. Real strength, strength of purpose, comes from integrity and character. And in my experience, the strongest person usually isn't the loudest one in the room. I've seen in my brother a quiet conviction and a core of conscience that cannot be shaken. And my hope is that the people of South Carolina will see this as well.

This is a serious election for a serious job. So please welcome a serious and thoughtful candidate. A good man. A man I am proud to call my big little brother, Jeb Bush.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Jeb Bush in Charleston, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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