Former President George W. Bush, the special guest at the 22nd annual Cuyahoga Community College Presidential Scholarship Luncheon, spoke in conversation with Tri-C President Dr. Alex Johnson before a sold-out audience at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on September 11, the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
President Bush, who chose the date to be here, said he was “deeply moved” hearing taps played on Public Square at 8:46 a.m., the national moment of silence, the exact time of the first terrorist plane striking the World Trade Center. He recounted that day of a child reading to him in a Florida classroom when he received news of the first plane (“I thought a pilot error”), then the second plane strike. At news of the third strike on the Pentagon, “I knew this was an attack on our country. I knew it was important to project calm as a leader. A president is hermetically sealed, but I saw firsthand shock, horror and doubt. The last thing I wanted to be was a war-time president.”
To Dr. Johnson’s question about events in the Middle East, President Bush said, “a former president does not undermine the current president.” In matters of foreign policy, he said, “the United States must take the lead to advance free societies. I learned diplomacy from the master – George H.W. Bush – my father; it’s important to understand how the other person thinks.”
The former president believes there must be immigration reform in “a way to reinvigorate the American soul,” and supports Social Security reform. The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas is home to the Bush Presidential Library and the Bush Institute that is working with Syracuse University on veterans’ initiatives. “Post traumatic stress is an illness, not a disorder,” said President Bush. “Thirteen years ago millions volunteered their service to this country. I put them into combat; I love and honor them all.”
The libraries/centers of former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are collaborating on a Presidential Leadership Scholars Program for people in business, public service and the military to learn decision-making principles to apply in their own careers.
Dr. Johnson announced that Tri-C is establishing the George W. Bush Scholarship in honor of the former president. Also announced was the establishment of the Alfred Lerner Veterans Services Center, funded by Mrs. Lerner and the Lerner Foundation in honor of the later Mr. Lerner, a Unites States Marine. Tri-C Foundation Board Chairman Rick Chiricosta announced that the event had raised over $1.6 million for student scholarships and veterans’ initiatives. STORY BY KATHRYN RIDDLE