Have you seen a shift in the past 20 years in the public’s attitude
I think so. I hope so. Many schools include a service project as part of
their curriculum, and many corporations have in-house projects for their
employees or give them time off to do volunteer work. There’s a greater
understanding about the importance of giving back.
Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush recently feted you for making
volunteerism important. What was that like?
First, it was a lot of fun to be together when it wasn’t a funeral. Since
I’m the oldest of the formers, that was especially exciting for me. I was
honored that they all came and they came not for me but for the cause.
Jimmy, Bill and, of course, George W. all feel strongly about service.
Is there something that only Presidents can understand about being
Like any job, you have to be in it before you can fully understand and
appreciate it. So right now there are only five of us who understand what it
means to be Commander in Chief. No matter the politics, there is a mutual
respect and understanding among us that is hard to explain.
You used to say, “The American people didn’t send us here to bicker.” Why
can’t the two parties compromise anymore?
Everybody does seem a little more entrenched these days. But if you read
David McCullough’s great biographies of Washington or Adams, you find out
they were pretty entrenched then too. People forget that Alexander Hamilton
and Aaron Burr had a shoot-out over policy differences. I think the 24-hour
news cycle has helped exaggerate the differences between the parties. You
can always find someone on TV somewhere carping about something. That didn’t
happen 20 years ago.
What do you make of the changes in the Middle East?
For 18 years I have resisted talking about current events. I am not going to
You and President Clinton raised $130 million for Katrina victims. What’s
next for the two men Barbara Bush called the “odd couple”?
When Bill and I teamed up to help the victims of Hurricane Ike, I told him
it was probably time for me to get out of the disaster business. So when the
Haiti earthquake happened, I was very pleased to see Bill and George W. team
up. I still want to help in small ways, but disaster relief takes the kind
of energy I just don’t have anymore.
How is the Silver Fox, by the way?
She’s great. She is the Energizer Bunny and never sits still and still has a
lot of opinions.
How are you feeling? Are you done jumping out of airplanes?
I have a form of Parkinson’s disease, which I don’t like. My legs don’t move
when my brain tells them to. It’s very frustrating. But I am in no pain, and
I have discovered the amazing scooters, which Barbara accuses me of driving
like I drive my boat. But they help me get around. I’m not sure about
jumping. I announced I was going to jump when I turned 90. I have three more
years to decide. My legs’ not working properly might be a deterrent.
Seriously, who’s the better golfer: 41, 42 or 43?
I am going with my son. He gave up golf while he was President, but his game
has really come back. He’s tearing up the courses in Texas.
What advice did you give George W. Bush about life after the White
Make the coffee in the morning, and don’t forget it’s your job to take the
garbage out now.
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