By Angelique D’Alessandro
George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, spoke at the Tilles Center on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in a conversation with former congressman Steve Israel, head of the LIU Global Institute.
The nearly full audience at the event consisted mostly of older people, with some students interspersed throughout the crowd.
One of the topics Bush discussed was a defining moment in his presidency: September 11, 2001.
“I don’t think that America should be a nation of revenge, but a nation of justice,” he said of the country’s response to the 9/11 attacks. “The country was very united then. We were a nation that was not going to be defeated by an enemy that was ruthless and barbaric.”
On immigration reform, Bush said that there should be tamper-proof ID cards given to immigrants that would allow them to work in the country. He stressed that immigration should be “a path to citizen- ship based upon someone’s contribution to the society in which they live.”
Bush also discussed his relationship with his father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. “[My father] would call me in dark moments and say, “Son, I’m incredibly proud of you and I love you,” Bush said.
He discussed his major influence, Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln’s unchanging principle that “all men are created equal under God.” Bush said that Lincoln’s non-punitive peace with the south after the Civil War was inspirational to him.
Bush talked about the past ten years since his presidency including his book writing, charitable works, and painting. Painting began as a pastime which turned into a large part of his life. Despite being a self-described “art agnostic” for most of his life, Bush tried out painting, and quickly realized he enjoyed artistic pursuits. “You don’t know what you can do in life until you give it a shot,” he said.
Bush did not comment on the actions of president Donald Trump or former president Barack Obama, as he said that while he was in office, he disliked when past presidents would comment on his work.
At the end of the conversation, Bush gave his most important piece of advice to the audience, which was met with much applause.
“Civic attitude starts at the grassroots level. Be responsible for your own behavior,” Bush said. “[Civic attitude] begins with the citizens themselves.”