By Tim Ellsworth
Union University News Office
JACKSON — President George W. Bush shared stories of his time in the White House, talked about his faith in Jesus Christ, and encouraged college students to be involved in public service at Union University’s 20th annual Scholarship Banquet Oct. 17.
The event, held at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, drew 1,500 people who heard the former president discuss a variety of topics in a 50-minute question-and-answer session with Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver.
“Do it,” Bush replied to a question about what he would say to college students considering public service. “It’s ugly at times. But first of all, you live in a fabulous country, and therefore you have a duty to serve your country one way or another. You can serve your country by feeding the hungry or by teaching a child to read.
“You can serve your country in the military,” Bush continued. “And you can serve your country by being involved with the political process. It’s tough. People say things about you that you may not like. But don’t go into politics to be liked. Go into politics to do what you think is right for the country.”
Bush talked about his conversion to Christianity as a 40-year-old man when he was drinking too much. Billy Graham came into his life through his friendship with Bush’s parents and gave Bush a Bible. Bush began reading it, became a Christian, and credits Jesus Christ with helping him to overcome his alcohol addiction.
That Christian faith ended up influencing many of his policies, Bush said.
He discussed at length the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which proved to be the defining moment of his presidency. He lauded the benefits of freedom as a gift from God to every person in the world. Freedom is not just an American concept, Bush said, but is universal.
Other topics Bush covered included his AIDS initiative in Africa, his painting, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, his family, and his legacy as president. Following his interview, Oliver presented Bush with a sculpture of a bulldog by Union art student Song Kim.
One of the premier events in West Tennessee each year, the Scholarship Banquet has hosted such speakers as George H.W. Bush, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ben Carson, and Condoleezza Rice, among others.
“This year’s Scholarship Banquet was a delightful evening with President Bush, truly a remarkable man who provided key leadership to the nation for eight years,” Oliver said. “President Bush’s sense of humor was on full display, and we appreciate his openness and honesty in talking about his faith and the challenges he faced in the White House.
“We’re grateful for his willingness to come, and we’re so thankful for the donors whose contributions to the Scholarship Banquet will help provide financial assistance to make a Union education possible for students in need.”