Good will and tears at Bush portrait unveiling

Charles Dharapak/AP

President Obama and the first lady had 14 members of the Bush family over for lunch on Thursday, as two generations of Bush presidents and others came to the White House for the unveiling of George W. and Laura Bush's official portraits. Obama and former President George W. Bush peppered their remarks with expressions of good will and jokes, but it was an undeniably emotional moment for the Bushes.

“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection,” Bush said. “It now starts and ends with a George W.” Noting that Dolly Madison rescued the portrait of George Washington during the war of 1812, Bush turned to Michelle Obama and said, “Now Michelle, if anything happens...there’s your man.”

Bush said to laughs, “I am also pleased, Mr. President, that as you are wandering these halls and wrestling with tough decisions, you’ll now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask: 'What would George do?' ”

Laura Bush had a few jokes of her own, noting that “nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the walls.” But by the end of the remarks by the former president and first lady, George W. and his daughters were tearing up.

Obama praised Bush's leadership on both economic and national security matters-- a rare departure from campaign-trail rhetoric.

“President Bush understood that rescuing our economy was not just a Democratic or Republican issue, it was an American priority,” Obama said of the 2008 financial crisis. He thanked Bush for helping him transition to power during such a turbulent time. 

“On that terrible September day when our country was attacked," Obama said, "all of us will always remember the image of President Bush standing on that pile of rubble, bull horn in hand, conveying extraordinary strength and resolve to the American people." He added that tracking down Osama bin Laden was the work of many people across two administrations, and that when bin Laden was killed, Bush was the first person he called.

Michelle Obama promised President Bush that, in an emergency, she'd protect his portrait.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.