When I left office and returned to Texas in January 1993, several friends suggested I write a memoir. "Be sure the historians get it right" seemed to be one common theme. Another: "The press never really understood your heartbeat -- you owe it to yourself to help people figure out who you really are."
I was unpersuaded. Barbara, in her best-selling Barbara Bush: A Memoir, wrote a wonderful book about our days together both in and out of public life and about our family. Then last year General Brent Scowcroft and I finished our book, A World Transformed, which dealt with the many historic changes that took place in the world when we were in the White House.
I felt these two books "got it right" both on perceptions of the Bushes as a family and on how my administration tried to handle the foreign-policy problems we faced.
But then along comes my friend and editor Lisa Drew, who suggested that what was missing is a personal book, a book giving a deeper insight into what my own heartbeat is, what my values are, what has motivated me in life. And then she said something that got me interested: "You already have done such a book. I am talking about a book of letters already written."
But there was a major sticking point. The private life I have returned to is challenging and rewarding and chockablock full of things to do. I have never been busier; nor, might I add, happier. I knew I did not have the time to do the research necessary to find, edit, and then publish the letters -- letters that start when I was eighteen years old and go right on up through the present time.
So I turned to my trusted friend Jean Becker, who had helped Barbara with her memoir. We became partners, Jean and I. I told her, I have done my part -- I wrote all these letters. Now it's your turn.
Jean spent endless hours contacting people whom I had written, digging through endless boxes of letters now in the archives at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University, going through my records from my United Nations and CIA days, listening to pathetic little scratchy tapes I had made for my spotty diary. She dug, and edited. She cajoled and pleaded for letters. She pushed me for my ideas as to what to include, what to leave out. She never gave up. I will never be able to properly express my gratitude to Jean Becker.
So what we have here are letters from the past and present. Letters that are light and hopefully amusing. Letters written when my heart was heavy or full of joy. Serious letters. Nutty letters. Caring and rejoicing letters.
Along the way we expanded our original mission and decided also to include diary entries, mainly to fill in some blank spaces. Please keep in mind, as you read some of these disjointed entries, that I dictated my diaries to a tape recorder. The diary entries are really me thinking out loud.
This book is not meant to be an autobiography. It is not a historical documentation of my life. But hopefully it will let you, the reader, have a look at what's on the mind of an eighteen-year-old kid who goes into the Navy and then at nineteen is flying a torpedo bomber off an aircraft carrier in World War II; what runs through the mind of a person living in China, halfway around the world from friends and family; what a President is thinking when he has to send someone else's son or daughter into combat.
It's all about heartbeat.
It took me fifty-seven years to write this book. If you enjoy reading it even just a tenth as much as I've enjoyed living it, then that is very good indeed.
All the best,
Copyright © 1999 by George H. W. Bush
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