PRESIDENTIAL PERSPECTIVE

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush discuss embracing gratitude after the White House

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush joined each other on stage Thursday (July 13) for a conversation in front of the graduating class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas.

The hour-long discussion focused on lessons the former US presidents learned from their time in office, how they adjusted to life after the White House, and the importance of bipartisanship in politics. Despite their differing political views, Bush and Clinton have formed a close friendship, and spent much of the discussion joking and ribbing each other on stage.

Bush, who succeeded Clinton in 2001, admitted he would often ask him for advice at the beginning of his presidency. Clinton credited his relationship with Bush’s father, former president George H. W. Bush, as one of the reasons for his success.

President Donald Trump was not mentioned during the conversation, but the two made veiled references to him. When asked what the most important quality of a president is, Clinton said that you have to begin with the end in mind.

“If you want to be president, realize it’s about the people, it’s not about you. When it’s over, that’s what a lot of these people who are real arrogant in office, they forget time passes. And it passes more quickly than you know. You want to be able to say, ‘People are better off when I quit.’…You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.'”

Bush was even more direct: “Humility. I think it’s really important to know what you know and to listen to people who do know what you don’t know.”

The conversation remained lighthearted for the most part, with the two men exchanging quips about raising grandchildren and adjusting to life as ex-presidents. Bush was also asked about his painting career, one of his more noteworthy late-in-life pursuits.

“I painted because I was bored,” Bush joked, “I read Winston Churchill’s essay, Painting as a Pastime, and I said, if that guy can paint, I can paint.”

Watch the full discussion here:

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