Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Texas Congressman Michael McCaul joined A&M and System officials to recognize 25 years of carrying the Bush legacy of public service.
Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service kicked off its 25th anniversary celebration at its new location in Washington, D.C. this week with Republican and Democratic officials recognizing the school and its namesake – President George H.W. Bush – for their enduring commitment to public service.
Bush School DC is a new teaching site for the Bush School of Government and Public Service, which was founded in 1997 on Texas A&M’s College Station campus under the 41st president’s philosophy that public service is a noble calling. The Bush School has since endeavored to carry on Bush’s legacy with curriculum, research and student experiences that are focused on public service.
Faculty began teaching courses at the D.C. site in January 2021, first in its Master of International Policy program, then adding graduate degrees and certificate programs in national security and intelligence, and advanced international affairs.
One of the distinguished guests at Tuesday evening’s event at the teaching site, located just blocks from White House, was Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.
“This new facility honors the absolutely impressive legacy of George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush – and especially their commitment to public service. Nobody did it better than George Bush,” Sharp said. “President and Mrs. Bush’s values align perfectly with the core values of A&M. Their commitment to public service is found all across our campus from our faculty to our students to our general staff.”
The evening’s keynote speaker was Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and son of the school’s namesake.
“I had a mom and a dad that loved me with their heart and soul, and loved my brothers and sister. You think about the blessing of being brought into the world in a hospital in Midland, Texas and little eyes open up and there’s Barbara Bush. I mean I won the lottery,” Bush said.
As governor of Florida, Bush said he learned how to manage crises as well as how to anticipate them, which is something that in public life is “really important.” He added that problems should be solved at the local and state level, noting that “people seem to default to Washington first, and I think that should be the last kind of place that we focus on, even with public service. There are so many ways to get involved.”
Bush said it’s time in politics to return to treating one another with respect and compassion. “It’s such a weird thing to talk about people with integrity and compassion and civility – like now that’s almost a sign of weakness. How could that be weak? To treat people as you’d want to be treated yourself – to treat everybody with dignity and respect, to care about the guy that’s been left behind, to show compassion for people you may not ever have met? And then to have the courage to do the right thing.”
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was also at the event and noted the Bush School’s success in preparing ethical future leaders.
“For 25 years, this first-string institution has been a beacon of education and inspiration to many students and former students, equipping them with deep knowledge, practical skills and strong ethics,” Pelosi said. “All of you are preparing the next generation of leaders for a lifetime of public service – a noble calling.
“Your new footprint here in D.C. – you are preparing more Aggies to be capably and faithfully serving our nation,” she continued. “With democracy under great threat at home and abroad, we need more men and women of character in our politics.”
Pelosi spoke also of the 41st president’s own service to his nation as well as his passing on Nov. 30, 2018. He was buried on the Texas A&M campus behind the Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Dec. 6, 2018, beside his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Robin.
“He had a profound vision of something kinder and gentler. This spirit was captured by the private note President Bush wrote to his electoral rival Bill Clinton on inauguration day 1993. Typical of his immense patriotism and grace, President Bush wrote, ‘your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.’ His vision and values are now proudly instilled in this wonderful Bush School and to the students in the Bush School,” Pelosi said.
Representing Texas A&M were a number of officials including Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jay Silveria, executive director of Bush School DC, who provided opening remarks, and Gen. (Ret.) Mark Welsh III, dean of the Bush School.
“The first thing we’re celebrating is the vision of an incredible public servant,” Welsh said. “When President Bush allowed his name to be used on this college, he actually had some clear guidelines he gave us. Things like, we’re going to have a founding principle of nonpartisanship… If we can produce 30 percent of those undergraduates going into public service – imagine if we can get that train rolling – the state of Texas wins, the nation wins, everybody wins.”
Of Welsh, U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul, who represents Texas’ 10th District, said: “Under the leadership of Mark Welsh, Bush School students continue to have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best.”
McCaul said Bush faculty at both locations are of the highest caliber.
“That includes Larry Napper who served at our embassy in Moscow and later as our ambassador to Latvia and Kazakhstan. And Jim Olson who served over 30 years as director of operations at the CIA,” McCaul said. “Thanks to these professors – legends, really – and those like them, students graduate from the Bush School with the knowledge and skills to make a difference on day one of the service to the nation.”
Additional speakers included Abby Spencer Moffat, CEO of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation which provides philanthropic support in variety of areas, including education. “To those who might have the U.S. rest on its laurels, I remind you of President Reagan’s warning: ‘freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction,’” Moffat said. “Defending the freedoms that our founders fought to secure is our sacred duty. That duty begins with education. With issues of national security more complex than any time in history, we may just defeat the next threat to freedom not on the battlefield but in the classroom.”
The Bush School of Government & Public Service is celebrating its 25th Anniversary throughout the 2022-23 academic year with a host of programs and events. Learn more about the Bush School at bush.tamu.edu.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications
Note: This article originally appeared in Texas A&M Today on April 8, 2022