Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

Meacham, Jon

Random House, 2015

p. 27, 31-32

Meacham portrays the early privileged life of the 41st President, and thus gives us a glimpse into the lives of affluent, socially advantaged American families in the 1930s. In Bush’s family, much weight rested on achievement. The idea was that if you have great advantages you must make something of them and of yourself. Honor requires that you acknowledge your duty to give back to society. A favorite text in the Bush household was Luke 12:48: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” The 12-13-year-old Bush buckled down. His parents were accomplished, powerful people, and George wanted to be a worthy son. His mother—an athlete—insisted that the trees on their estate were there to be climbed. She and Prescott Bush, George’s father, instilled great ambition in their progeny, always counseling that it must not show. Great ambition, casual high achievement—that was the program. Meanwhile, “there were trees, and trees were to be climbed, no matter how high or how hard. There were exams, and exams were to be passed, and passed handsomely. There were older people, and older people were to be charmed, and charmed graciously. There were other boys, and other boys were to be treated well, with kindness and generosity.” Life is a contest, and in all contests there are winners and losers. The subtle message to George Bush was, “be a winner and be easy about it.” Ambition inside and nonchalance outside were expected from the time George knew who his family was, and therefore who he was.