George W. Bush, the greatest living ex-president of the United States, made his first ever podcast appearance this week, and oozed charisma during a discussion about humor, optimism, and the secret to being a fantastic painter.
We sat down with President George W. Bush to discuss leadership, humor, and the arts – specifically, his painting and dancing. Listen now to his episode on The Strategerist #podcast via @ApplePodcasts: https://t.co/JxWuzV0Xlw
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) May 17, 2019
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Bush made a special guest appearance Thursday on "The Strategerist," the official podcast of the George W. Bush Institute. The top-ranking former president began by dishing on the inspiration behind the show's name—the word "strategery," which was actually the brainchild of a Saturday Night Live writer.
Bush said that for 17 years he believed the famous line uttered by Will Ferrell's George W. Bush was something he had actually said as president. Longtime SNL producer Lorne Michaels, during a recent dinner meeting, assured him that the show had invented the term out of whole cloth.
The discussion turned to the subject of humor, and not taking yourself too seriously. The notoriously affable ex-president stressed the importance of maintaining a sense of humor as president because "our nation needs to laugh." Humor, said Bush, was a critical component of the job.
"I think it is very important for society and individuals to, either collectively or individually, laugh because laughter is such a part of a light spirit," he said. "It's hard to be optimistic if you aren't able to smile."
Bush cited his late father George H.W. Bush's embrace of SNL impersonator Dana Carvey as an inspiration behind his capacity for self-deprecation. "One of the jobs of a president is to create an optimistic vision for the country, and I don't see how you can be optimistic if you're worried that someone is making fun of you," he said.
The greatest living ex-president, who is also known for his extraordinary dancing prowess, discussed his efforts to bring joy to others in uncomfortable situations, for example, at a cervical cancer screening event in Zambia. "Amidst all the deprivation and poverty, there was a joy," he said. "I got caught up in the joyful spirit and they started singing and clapping and a couple of us started dancing, and it was really fun."
Bush went on to laud the success of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which he described as "your taxpayer money going to save lives on the continent of Africa." Thanks to the generosity of American taxpayers, he said, "millions now live that would have died."
Humor and joy are two of the things that help Bush maintain a healthy optimism in the age of the doom-mongering 24-hour news cycle. "We have been through some very difficult periods in the past," he said. "This one, for some people, seems like the most difficult. It's not. Our democracy has got institutional safeguards that enable the state to sail on … The soul of America is good and generous."
Asked what he wished more people would ask him about during interviews, Bush turned to the subject of painting, an artistic medium that he has effectively mastered. The secret to his success, Bush confided, was keeping his arsenal of colors to a minimum. He recalled how one of his painting instructors enlightened him with a simple piece of advice.
"He came into my studio one day and said, What do you want to learn? I said color. He said well get rid of all the paints you bought. I had bought every color there was," Bush explained. "I've learned to mix every color possible. And it's changed my painting and it's changed my appreciation of the use of color in my paintings."
Aspiring fantastic painters should take note. These days, Bush is only using reds, blues, yellows and whites in his paint mix. Unlike former President Obama, who has been dabbling in film production since leaving the White House, Bush continues to prove that real American greatness can only be accomplished by working with one's hands.