After leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue behind, former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush became known for their work with veterans.
On Sunday, Veteran’s Day, the Bushes accepted the Liberty Medal of Honors at the National Constitution Center, recognizing their dedication to those who have served the country through the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative. The program focuses on post-9/11 veterans and helping them overcome the challenges of adapting to civilian life. Many of the servicemen and women President Bush has worked with are featured in his book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is Chairman of the National Constitution Center, bestowed the honors to the Bushes, giving remarks where he talked about the meaning of the Constitution.
“America is uniquely a product of our government institutions… our constitution – it has endured and guided us through many of our stumbles. It makes no mention of political party or faction. We haven’t always lived up to it, but it is who we are.”
Biden also referenced the divisive politics currently dividing the nation. “President Bush was my opposition, but he was never my enemy. Think about how far our politics have come.”
After his remarks, the former Vice President presented the Bushes with the Liberty Medal.
Laura Bush addressed the crowd before introducing her husband, she spoke about life outside of the White House.
“President Bush and I are retired now, so we want to spend out afterlife dedicated to the programs of the George W. Bush Institute – including and especially our military service initiative.”
The former first lady spoke about some of the initiatives she have worked on since leaving office.
“I like to spend time with the spouses and caregivers who accompany their warriors to Texas. These are the ones who care for the family and manage the home while our service men and women are deployed.”
After finishing her remarks, she introduced her husband, president number 43.
“Laura and I are the 2nd and 3rd members of our family to receive this award. The most deserving of course was the first. And I am proud to follow in my dad’s footsteps…once again!” said Bush as he took to the podium.
The younger Bush gave an update on his father’s health to the crowd.
“He’s doing all right these days, and he sends his greetings. He’s 94 years old, and his parachuting days are behind him. Or so we keep telling him,” he chuckled.
Bush then spoke about his work with veterans through Military Service Initiative, including the W 100K bike ride, saying “I aim to keep riding until my mountain bikes break down, or my body.” He also spoke about his paintings and the bonds he has created with his subjects. “I count these friendships among the greatest blessings of my life.”
“Even my biggest critic tells me I’m improving!” said Bush, who chuckled as he looked at Mrs. Bush.
President Bush also acknowledge last year’s recipient, a close friend of both his and Vice President Biden.
“When the Vice President was here last year to bestow this same award, the recipient was a man who dedicated his life to the cause of liberty. A man we admire and miss. And who better to keep close in memory on Veteran’s Day than our friend John McCain.”
McCain, a revered war hero and civil servant, passed away in August of terminal brain cancer.
The Liberty Medal honor is given each year to “women and men of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty for people around the world.” Past recipients include former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai, and Congressman John Lewis.