41: A Portrait of My Father


A Portrait of My Father

George W. Bush

Crown Publishers, New York, 2014, 294 pages

Book Review published on: March 10, 2017

Only once before in America’s history has a father and son both served our nation as president. In a different century, John Adams and John Quincy Adams may have had a similar dialogue. Today in this unique perspective, George Walker Bush our forty-third president reflects upon the career of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, our forty-first president.

This is a homage to George W. Bush’s father who he considers the finest man in his life. It is a love story from son to father in a fraternity where few leaders are able to relate. Critics of George W. Bush may also find that this is another justification of actions of the forty-third presidency as he injects moments where he sought counsel from his father.

The true celebration of this book reveals how George H. W. Bush was shaped by his scholastic efforts at Yale. This also shows his military experiences of World War II in the Pacific Theater where he served as a naval aviator and survived being shot down. In addition, it shows his economic successes and failures; the connections with family that famed Prescott Bush (H. W.’s father) had set conditions for the rest of future Bush generations both economically and politically a family, which would span over three decades.

The book is less about the political strategies or processes that took place during his presidency but is about the personal side of H. W. Bush’s life. For example, as a young father he had to face the death of his daughter Robin to pediatric leukemia. These shared moments shared will tear at the heartstrings of any parent. In addition, much can be gleaned from leader who has moved out of a position and has the opportunity to influence a new generation by providing an opinion.

Military leaders will take insight from the perspective that when even when pressed with a decision, the leader that is no longer in office can only advise. An example of this is when 43 says: “I never asked Dad what I should do. We both knew this was a decision only the president can make. We did talk about the issue, however. Over Christmas 2002, at Camp David, I gave Dad an update on our strategy.” Bush Sr. replied: “You know how tough war is, son, and you’ve got to try everything you can to avoid war. But if a man won’t comply, you don’t have any other choice.”

George W. Bush writes that he was not attempting to right the wrongs where his father was not able complete a task, but that he would hear his father’s counsel and which in some ways was rather cryptic and allowed his children to make their own decisions. The book does not discuss where Bush Sr. was faced with drastic political decisions. Nor does it provide strategic insights as to how his decisions, save the advice he would give to son, would affect the rest of the world. In so many ways the different opportunities and challenges, Bush Sr. faced truly shaped him to be the kind of statesman, father, and president he would become.

The biography is worth reading for those readers who would enjoy the foundations of a patriot who had his own struggles in life and with drive and a bit of luck found himself in the office of the presidency.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Andrew H. Warninghoff, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas