Tuesday, February 10, 2015

454 (2015 #11). 41: A Portrait of My Father

by George W. Bush

I've always admired George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st President, since growing up in his Congressional district in Houston, Texas.  So when I had an opportunity to borrow his son George W. Bush's memoir about his father, I jumped on it.

I classify this book as a memoir rather than a biography.  It has an index, but not the footnotes and reference list you'd expect in most biographies.  George W. (hereafter called 43 for simplicity) is clear from the beginning that he's not going to be objective.  Yet I thought he did a good job analyzing his father's presidency and identifying the lessons he learned from what his father did right and what 43 thought he could have done better - some of the lessons 43 applied in his own political career.

George H. W. Bush has had a remarkable life.  At one time the youngest Navy pilot in World War II, he was shot down over the Pacific (but fortunately rescued).  A post-war graduate of Yale, he was captain of its baseball team and played in the first two College World Series.  Besides U.S. Congressman, he also served as ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee chairman (during the Watergate scandal), envoy to China (back when diplomatic relations were being restored), CIA director, and vice-president to Ronald Reagan, before becoming the 41st President of the United States in 1989.

His son tells 41's story in an easy, conversational tone that sounds like the way 43 talks.  I don't think there was a ghostwriter here.  The book was inspired by a conversation 43 had with the daughter of historian David McCullough, who wrote a biography of John Adams, the only other man whose son also served as president.  Yet John Quincy Adams never wrote any accounts of his father's life.

Even more valuable than the insights into 41's public life are the glimpses into his private one with his family and friends.  His son paints a portrait of a man who was genuinely funny and had deep feelings for those he loved and cared about.

That alone, in my opinion, is reason to read this book, no matter your political feelings about either 41 or 43.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to the public library.]

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