Neil Bush on memories of his father, former President George H.W. Bush

Published: Dec. 4, 2018 at 5:40 PM CST
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Following the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, News 3's Kathleen Witte sat down with her son Neil Bush.

The son of Barbara and 41st President George H.W. Bush lives in Houston and is the board chair of his father's non-profit, Points of Light.

Below is a portion of that conversation with Neil Bush on memories of his father:


Kathleen Witte: This is the question that you said everybody asks, and you have trouble finding an answer, for, but what are those earliest--

Neil Bush: What do I remember as a kid?

KW: Yes, what are your earliest memories of him?

Bush: I remember him being a very active sports dad, among other things. He’s funny. He was engaged. He would tickle when I was a little tiny kid, I remember being tickled… I just loved being with him, being around him. One thing I do share with him that my other brothers don’t quite get as much joy out of was being on boats. My dad loved speed boats and had a generation--multiple generations--of the same kind of boat called the Fidelity. If you go to the Bush Museum, you’ll see the one Fidelity being displayed there. Dad and I used to love—he just loved having the ocean air blowing through his hair as he sped across the Atlantic. We shared that in common. I just remember him being a very active, very engaged, amazingly thoughtful father. I think the biggest impact he had on us as kids, truthfully... My mom was the enforcer. She told us to hang the towels and make the bed and say thank you and please and those kinds of things. She guided us, verbally; she kind of instructed us on how to be a good citizen. But Dad set such a great example by his life, that we would want to aspire to do what he would do. He was a great role model, a great inspiration for not just us, but I think he had a huge impact on millions of people in that way.

KW: Did you know he was going to be president?

Bush: No... As a kid, there’s really no concept of what it meant to be president. President of what? So no. I mean, I worked very hard all of my family worked very hard for dad in 1979, 1980 leading up to his first presidential election where he lost to [Ronald] Reagan but became VP. And there is nothing more fun, and in that moment, I knew he was the best qualified guy to be president. But it’s kind of surreal when you actually get a father who’s successfully become president, and then you go to the inauguration and see the parade. You’re there. You’re on the front row, in the White House—and the experiences we had vising the White House—it was a remarkable experience, truthfully, to be kind of witness to it... Having said that, the fact that he did become president wasn’t really a surprise. I mean, there’s no one better suited at the time, or now, to be a great president than a guy who had his qualifications, his love of country, his service to country, his values and culture and ethics, his wisdom. He was the best qualified guy ever to serve as president. I don’t mean any disrespect to my brother George [W. Bush, 43rd U.S. president] who did a great job as well, but you know. So, when he became president it wasn’t really a shocker to me.

KW: What was difficult about growing up, even into adulthood, in this 'political dynasty' of sorts?

Bush: It’s a good question, and I don’t know. This may sound like a trivial response, but my parents never let us think we were any different, so this word 'dynasty' kind of implies some royalty or some special thing. But we never thought of--I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as being any different than anybody else, truthfully. I think the biggest difference is that we were raised by such loving parents that unfortunately not as many people in the country are as blessed in that sense. But Mom and Dad would never--they didn’t talk about it--but would never tolerate braggadocio or lack of humility or of thinking of yourself before others. We were never allowed to just kind of stray from basic values. So, this whole dynasty thing—it didn’t really impact [us]. We weren’t allowed to be thinking we were special.