tv Jean Becker The Man I Knew CSPAN August 13, 2021 1:39am-2:29am EDT
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to tonight's virtual lecture with the author of the man i knew a new memoir about former president george hw bush. before we begin i would like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on the youtube channel. june 9th at 1 p.m. we will present a program and partnership with u.s. association of former members of congress called can congress reform itself again. the moderator will be the librarian of congress and panelists will include current and former members of congress. on june 15th at noon, historian michael burling game will be here to talk about his new book an american marriage based on 30 years of research describes and analyzes the marriage between abraham lincoln and mary todd. through the presidential libraries the archive preserves the records of the presidents back to herbert hoover the story is told in cover the entire life
not just their time in the highest office of the nation. after returning to private life, a number of them turn to humanitarian causes and advisory roles and youct will find this document as well. after leaving office in 1993, george bush remained engaged in public service and continued to encourage others to make a differencee in large and small ways. they worked for a kinder, gentler america. today's author was with president bushnt for nearly allf his postpresidential years and in the book the man i knew, she brings the reader into the room and brings a close-up look at his work after leaving the oval office. jane was president george hw bush as chief of staff for nearly 25 years from 1994 until 2018.
as the chief of staff becker had a ringside seat after the presidency including when he died facing the challenge and honor of being in charge of his state funeral. previously james served as the press secretary to first lady barbara bush from 1989 to 1992. as a former journalist, she's also a member of the fulbright scholarship and the cancer board as well as an ad hoc member of the advisory boards of the presidential library and school of government and public service. the moderator for tonight's discussion is the director of the george hw bush presidential library and museum. more than 30 years of experience at the national archives and records administration first with the office of presidential libraries here in washington, d.c. and then with the ronald
reagan library in california and now the bush library and museum. an archivist detailed to the bush white house in 1992 to assist with a move of the bush presidential's to texas and has been in college station ever since. now let's hear from jean becker and lauren finch. thank you for joining us today. good evening. great to see you. i'd like to shout out to the partners in crime my colleague from la and then also to the dean of the bush school and the staff at the library have been so helpful and also to the staff
of the office it's a great organization we belong to. we've been very lucky to be a part of it and for all these years. my first question you kind of came to the bush office in a curious y way. could you talk a little bit about your work for usa today and you did the diary so can you talk about how that led to barbara bush hiring you to work on her staff? >> it was sort of an interesting road to the white house. i was a newspaper reporter at usa today in 1988 and the 1988 election. barbara bush and kenny dukakis both agreed to write a weekly column for usa today. it c was called the campaign diy
and i was there editor. when i was given the assignment i didn't want to be the editor but it ended up being a lot of fun and i got to know both of those amazing women really well and after the election i was surprised when the chief of staff offered me a job in the first lady's press office. it took a couple weeks to think about it. i loved being a reporter and then my dad said what is wrong with you. you've been offered a job by the incoming first lady of the united states and you are still thinking about it. he was right, i said yes and the rest is history. to help missus bush with her memoirs i was her researcher and editor. she wrote the book herself. she would want me to say that. and then the book was done and
president bush said to me will you stay just a couple more months. i need to hire a chief of staff. he said to just stay until labor day. this was march of 94. and i will hire someone. we never talked about it again. twenty-five years later i said to him i'm still waiting for you to come into my office and tell me y that you've hired a chief f staff and that i am unemployed. >> 's a 25 years plus working for president a bush and you've written this great book and what i love about the book is that it's a book of stories. tell us why you wrote it and why people should read it. >> i wrote the book my beginning idea was it left me so many
great stories. it was such a wild roller coaster ride for 25 years. he was funny, there was the whole t story, the odd couple of he and bill clinton. he went back where he was shot down and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for disaster relief and then there were funny stories like when he called to ask vanguard if he was dead or alive. that's when i knew i had to write the book so i started writing the book because i thought the american people need to know the heart and soul of this amazing man. in the middle of writing the book it occurred to me that there was something a lot more important at work here pouring out of my heart onto my computer. president bush really left us a
blueprint on how to live life. when someone dies and they often will say it was a life well lived. if you want that to be said about you when you die, you need to a read this book. president bush taught us how to live life. >> jumping out of airplanes, love the story missus bush said it was a great way to go one way or another. >> she was glad because on his 90th birthday, he jumped at saint anne's church in kennebunkport maine and she said if it doesn't go well we will carry him inside and have the funeral. >> it wouldn't be far to go. so, today is missus bush's birthday. we put a bouquet of roses on her gravesite today. just an amazing love story.
missus bush and her scrapbooks, hundreds of scrapbooks i think there are like 125 or 150. someone at the library made a mistake of asking missus bush if she needed them herself. you can imagine what she said. >> she started thesis scrapbooks when they first got married. >> i have to explain that photo. i hate to interrupt you. the wranglers at texas a&m they are pretending they are wranglers and that photo. they just know how to have fun. i'm sorry i interrupted you. >> for those of you it's a precision dance team and they look like they are going to knock themselves out but somehow they do it and the bushes love
them. today is the 96 birthday. she's here along with her husband and daughter of the presidential library. talk a little bit about you talk about a life well served. that was a great partnership. i am 60-years-old now and i think i can say they were both kids when they got married although he has been in the war. they were 19 when they got married. they were married for 73 years. i'm wearing barbara bush blue in honor of her birthday and pearl earrings. i almost brought the parole necklace but used to drive missus bush crazy because when i would bring pearls i would twirl them and she would say quit twirling your pearls so in her honor. i did not wear pearls today. i would like to read a letter
that is in the book that president bush wrote that says everything you need to know how he felt about his life of 73 years. january 6, 1994 the 49th wedding anniversary. will you marry me? i forgot you did that 49 years ago today. i was very happy on that day in 1945 and i am even happier today. you have given me joy that few men know. you have made our boys into men by calling them out and then right away loving them. we've raised the sweetest daughter in the whole world. i've climbed the highest mountain in the world but even that could not hold a candle to being barbara's husband.
mom used to tell me don't walk ahead. little did she know i was only trying to keep up with barbara pierce on the street in new york. i love you. >> great letter. >> it's such a great letter and before, i'm going to jump right in and then i promise i will let you talk again. i know right now people are weeping across america with that letter so now i'm going to make them laugh so we will wipe away the tears quickly. missus bush was a good sport. president bush teased her. he had a wonderful sense of humor and i think she was the target of most of the practical jokes. this is the worst thing he ever did to her so i'm going to read this. missus bush often told people
one of the main reasons she married george bush is that he made her laugh. he was a master of practical jokes with his wife often his target. one of the more famous success stories had to be the day he managed to convince her she gmight be going to jail for trafficking porn. during the summer of 1998, see there are a lot of surprises in the book. during the summer of 1998 it cameth to light that someone in the house was looking up and printing porn off of missus bush's computer. several unnamed teenage grandsons were immediate suspects and they quickly acknowledged their crime. leaving some photos in the printer led to their downfall. a few days after the unfortunate incident, missus bush found in her stack of mail a letter from
the office of the inspector general of the federal trade commission. it read in part in doing a routine check it appears you haveec recently been engaged in downloading pornographic material. we respectfully request that you report to the regional office in portland maine for a hearing august 17th, 1998 at 8:30 a.m. lying next to her husband in bed she blurted out to him that she might be going to jail. i wasn't there when all of this transpired but i was told president bush managed to keep it together for a few minutes before dissolving into laughter. hete had written the letter with the help of some staff members. that was sort of the secret to their wonderful marriage. they knew how to laugh and how to tease each other.
>> you tell the story president and missus bush were both in the hospital and she comes to visit his room and his hair is all messy and tell us that story, would you. >> the week before she died, we get word she's headed back and sort of taken a turn for the worst so i told them she was on her way back. they got her settled into a room at methodist the last couple of years. i think methodist hospital figured out if one was in the hospital eventually the other one would end up there. sort of bywas design. president bush wanted to go in and seee her.
she wasn't in a coma but she was somewhere else pretty much out of it. i hate to be critical of the president but he looked awful. his hair was standing straight up, he was wearing an oxygen mask, he was in a hospital gown and looked like you and i if we had been in the hospital for five days. so they get him in his wheelchair and take him into a room. he is just sitting there holding her hand and all of a sudden her eyes flew open and she looked at him and said my god, george, you are devastatingly good looking. i hate to say it but he was not at that moment. then she just closed her eyes and the love of her life was
holding her hand. he caught my eye ande sort of shrugged as if to say it is what it is. she died about a week later and they lived in a three-story townhouse. their bedroom was on the second floor. the power went out that day for three hours and he was downstairs when he was told that the time was near. the secret service carried him up the stairs because the elevator wasn't working. he said i have to be there so they died holding hands. i would love right now to give a shout out to the grand daughter, the beautiful and wonderful. a couple of years ago there was
a book about the love story called george and barbara bush the great american love story. it's a sweet wonderful book and i know i think you have a story to share with us. >> they came to the bush library and did a lot of research. the scrapbooks missus bush kept were amazing. we did the museum on the tenth anniversary one of the reasons we wanted to read through the exhibits is because we discovered these scrapbooks, the amazing there's 125 or 150 of them. we've been through them all but apparently we haven't been through them all in great detail so there's one from 1945. ellie and kelly are going through the scrapbook and they open a page and there's an
envelope sealed up and it's got the names of people who attended the dinner so they opened the envelope and inside is the wishbone from the first thanksgiving turkey george and barbara bush had in 1945. missus bushd was always great about the guests that came and everyone kind of went at once. after you read the man i knew. >> i love that story. you talk about doing a lot of research at the library. i would like to point out that ththe library was closed the entire time because of the pandemic and working from home,
the head archivist, the deputy director i know it was hard for you all to help me fact check and researchch this book and alo lauren has the best wife ever, the audiovisual director. you are rock stars so let's take a moment to thank you. the book wouldn't have happened without you. you helped me despite the fact that your home. you managed to dig out fact checking. i did have to e-mail george clooney directly and do fact checking with him i will just throw that out there. home, it is amazing, great staff here, they did great work so let's
see, let's talk about this relationship between resident bush and president clinton. i heard president bush say one time, i kind of liked him when he was governor. [laughter] didn't like him so much when he ran against me but i kind of liked him again when he left office and that of course adams and jefferson, they were good friends, not good friends and then they were good friends again but president bush and bill clinton had the special relationship and talk about a life well served -- lift, they did some amazing work. >> they related and you and i talked about this a couple of days ago because this event posted by the national archives who did want to talk about their relationship that happened
between former presidents, they really are the presidents club. there's a great book written by the great michael about the presidents club in favor they do have a special relationship with each other. here's a picture of the former presidents at that time, i confess i am photo bombing, they are backstage and we were about ready to a huge fund for hurricane harvey relief. that's my great friend helping out and she and i photo bombed the president but they are just telling stories and catching up with each other with hurricane harvey devastating houston. of course the two george bushes immediately wanted to roll up their sleeves and go to work and i just told the other three former presidents from a fellow chief of staff, just an fyi we
are going to be doing this well, here they are. they all showed up in its overly special relationship, president bush and president clinton became great friends, a chapter about all disaster relief or missus bush called them the odd couple and that is the title of the chapter. they raised hundreds of millions of dollars for hurricane katrina, hurricane rita, hurricane ike tsunami in south asia will all begin to remember to ask everyone to read the book, the stories are terrific and you're going to love the second funeral story i thought tonight i would tell a few stories that are well known and one involves former vice president al gore it demonstrates that the men hopefully one day soon the women
who occupy the highest offices in the land they do have a connection no matter their politics, no matter their background they had a shared experience not many of us could really understand so i'm going to tell two quick stories. december 2000 supreme court ruled george w. bush did win the election, the recount is over and vice president gore is scheduled to give concession speech to the nation and president bush called me and he said as soon as it's done i would like to call out for and talk to him. he was in the evening, i was at home and as respectfully as i could, i said sir, i'm not sure that you are the present vice president gore needs to hear
from tonight. i'm thinking to hear from anyone named bush the father of the man who defeated him and said are you sure you want to call him? he said i have been where al gore is. i know what he's about ready to do and i would like to call and talk to him when he's done. i told him well, i will call the white house the best way to reach the president and that made him very happy admit he cut me out of the middle and he said i will call the operator when the speech is done. i love the operators and you don't have to worry about it. so i watch the speech, it was very gracious about watching him come out of the eisenhower office building in the complex and marching this on tv live and i see him pick up the phone.
i'm thinking no, no, no. that can't possibly be my boss. well, five minutes later my phone rings and it's president bush. i just got off the phone with al gore. i think he was thrilled i called, we had a great conversation, i told him that his speech was wonderful and perfect and i think he understood why i called. he understood i was where he was so i did the right thing. i know that he did. i was wrong and he was right. fast-forward to 2008 and it's a wide-open election year, george w leaves office in the morning after the first democratic debate president bush comes to the office and he says jean, joe biden on the phone.
i don't like how they retreated at the debate last night and i said what are you talking about? he said look, there was standing on the end, they hardly got any questions, they kept saying all the questions to hillary clinton, barack obama and that guy john edwards, think all the questions. joe biden and chris are upstanding u.s. senators and deserve to be treated better. how i was treated in 1980, the man on the end and could never get any questions so once again i said don't you think senator biden and senator don will think it's on your calling a republican president, calling them and he said get them on the phone. so we did and he had a great conversation with them. i only tell those stories because they are in the book but it gives people a little insight to the camaraderie that happens
behind the scenes between these people who have shared experience -- go ahead. >> he operated well on the telephone. [laughter] and his letters were amazing. it's funny, not always a great speech maker but you get him in a room with ten people, i think it's probably like at his state dinner so much because with ten people he was amazing. >> that's a great way to say that i'm sorry, he was very personable and i do want to go back to the photo of all the president backstage and hurricane harvey, a great team of archives to pull that backup. i have to tell a funny story about that night.
this was a saturday evening, we didn't even invite the other president, i just told him fyi, when it comes to this event, they all came. president obama, president clinton, president carter and when i told the bushes they were all coming, i'll never forget this, missus bush said oh, dear, we need to give them dinner. we are going to have to feed them and i thought that such a normal reaction. that's what any wife in america would react to, her husband comes home and says honey, i've invited some people over for dinner tonight so we did give them dinner before the event the funny thing is, i'm going to tattletale onto people who i love. i get a call from secretary baker, james baker and he says jean, i am coming to that event, understand that presidents are coming, i hear there is a dinner
before hand. i would like in on the dinner. can i get into the dinner? president bush said i had to call you. i was like like i'm going to tell secretary baker know, you can't come to dinner. of course, there's plenty of room for you and susan, they would love to see you so he called me back and said jean, cheney is coming and he would like to be at that dinner. he says everyone wants to be at this dinner and i said did you call and invite him? he said well, maybe because i thought was going to be there. i said fine, but you cannot invite anybody else because the table is now full. may not call one more time to say anyone else is coming so it was funny and a great evening and again a great example of rotary among these people and these guys and we need a woman to be a part of this club.
>> that was a great evening, a fantastic evening and is, there is camaraderie between these men may be a woman one day but so far, just men who have been former president and have shared experience run for office, won and lost in president bush was able to do so much good after he left office. >> there's such great resource for the country, i know january 20 this past year when they were all in washington for the inauguration, they made a psa for vaccine encouraging americans to get vaccinated. right now they have all agreed to be honorary chairs in september honoring president bush, the george bush award so
nice to do that. they come together when the country needs them and it's a great resource. i am up big fan of the presidents club they do work, i think we have a picture of the funeral. bush used to laugh and say we come together at funerals and library openings. not exactly true, they did a lot more than that. there they all are at the funeral, the national cathedral of president bush and i might add, of course you don't see is the 43rd president sitting on the other side of the aisle with family but he did manage before the service began, president george w. bush came over and shook their hands and thank them
all for coming and then he did give michelle obama payment because that started during john mccain's funeral to have this inside thing, it was very sweet. >> both of them were breaking up at the opening of the african-american museum, i think there were sitting next to each other. >> they were misbehaving, i think they were. they have a great friendship which is wonderful. >> that is nice. if you've got a question, type it into the chat and at the end of our program i will be happy to ask the questions. one more thing. we've got this big locomotive union pacific, the one given to us by union pacific we did about ten or 15 years ago and briefly tell the story, president bush that would be a grand idea after
the funeral in houston that everyone could write up on the train and have a sandwich so talk about how you explained to him, maybe he wouldn't be having a sandwich. >> across, i am embarrassed i said this but it was a funny moment. president bush, who planned the funeral off and on over the years and every once in a while we would get out the folder and particularly after president ford died in president reagan died, he made changes to his funeral plan but president bush loved trains and he said to me i would like to take the train from houston, a church service in houston and the texas a and m and he said jean, let's take a train. it will be perfect because we can all be on the train and will
have lunch, it will be very relaxed and everyone can put their seat up and relax before the burial and he kept talking about in first person and i hope you don't think i'm disrespectful but i looked at him and i said sir, i think that's a great idea and i'll work on that train but you're not going to be on the train. he looked at me, he was always right, i should have learned. he said oh yes i will. [laughter] of course he was, of course he was on the train. >> maybe not eating the sandwich but he was on the train. i wasn't on the train because i was trying to get back to the college station to beat the train back so we could meet at their along with the officials for the university but it was amazing, the highway parallels and railroad tracks and there were people all along the river tracks, god bless you, mr.
president, thank you, america loves you. the arrival at college station was amazing, rainy somber day and everyone was kind of down and suddenly the band played and everyone gave it a cheer and it was a big cut. >> he was. >> let's go to questions if you don't mind. >> okay. >> maybe we will veer off after questions. someone wants to know missus bush were referred to as president bush as george bush. in my experience, he often times used his nickname to people who knew george bush when he was young knew he had a nickname and i have heard missus bush referred to him.
>> she called him pop or probably. she usually called him pop so let me see if i can get this straight. so president bush's name was george herbert walker bush. he was named for his grandfather whose name was george herbert walker, that was his maternal grandfather. when he was growing up, george herbert walker's children all called their dad pop. when little george herbert walker bush comes along, they nicknamed him copy and started a playoff for what they called their father. so president bush was called poppy. i think almost until he went to the navy at the age of 18 after pearl harbor and he wrote somewhere he found out poppy was
not a quick name for a young man in the navy, he wants to be a navy pilot but he tried to drop the name. i'm thinking of him writing about no one in texas was called poppy but missus bush brought him pop into the very end. it was very sweet so quickly it's a problem for you, to. president bush's name was george herbert walker bush went by george bush, he did not like having four names. then a man named george washer broke george walker bush was elected in 2000 and all of a sudden you had to president george bush's.
this was a big problem because there's a lot of confusion about who you are talking about and it was a huge recommendation to my boss, number 41 was that he start using his initial because the 43rd president already went by george w. bush to distinguish himself from his father. my boss was urged to go by george h.w. bush and it irritated him so he did not want to start incorporating his middle name thank heavens for the brilliant man, i cannot remember now what is but it's in the book who came up with 41 and 43 and oh my gosh, president bush loved being called 41 and it was perfect. >> a great story about that, a great portrait of george h.w.
bush and his son george w. bush the artist who painted the portrait. it was confusing george w. bush you need to post this way, george bush finally said i'm 41, he's 43 and he said i can't. prime it got so confusing the artist did 41 and 43 because it was the way to distinguish them. >> president clinton told me once, i think it was chief of staff told me this that i think it was 43 who called president clinton 42 once and president clinton, it made his day. he told his staff all my gosh, i'm pretty sure it was 43 he called him back, he just called me 42, i am like a member of the family now, i thought that was funny. >> so president bush was reagan's vice president for eight years and is a question
about, they were adversaries and i'm not sure president bush ever thought he would be picked for vp but talk about how that relationship grew between the two of them. >> i should say weber asked the question, i apologize, it predates my book and it predates when i was in president bush's inner circle so i know the answer, i do just from being around for 25 years, president reagan sort of chose george bush to be his vp candidate in the 11th hour at the 1980 republican convention, not his first choice. historians among will remember it was former president for and that did not work out so it became, instead george bush from
texas and the two men became best friends and the timing of the question is really perfect because i had lunch the other day with secretary baker and a lot of you might remember secretary baker was actually present reagan's first white house chief of staff which was amazing considering the fact that james baker ran george bush's campaign in 1980 so i was asking secretary baker about the relationship, i don't know why we started talking about and he said ronald reagan was just one of the nicest most genuine people you'd ever want to meet and he george bush tangled on the campaign trail, they were able to put aside their differences and figure out they had a lot more in common than not they had an amazing relationship for eight years.
>> here's a question, so why did missus bush let her husband jump out of airplanes? [laughter] >> a right letter in the book president bush wrote his five children about his first parachute jump in at the beginning of the letter he says i am not told her yet but i will make her her favorite drink tonight and will tell her. she was not thrilled, she thought it was a little crazy but i think she thought it was really crazy but one of the things that i think made their marriage work is she new she can talk him out of it. she could tell this was important to him so she went along with it, she was very unhappy when he jumped on his 90th birthday.
i had to sort of be the go-between between the two of them. we thought the weather would call it off and it turned out the weather didn't call it off. i actually called the 43rd president to come to intervene and he said jean, i'll talk to mom. dad wants to jump, we need to let him jump so she was a very good sport but it was an 90th birthday parachute jump that she said well, if this goes wrong, we'll just carry him into the church and have a funeral. he said he was going to jump on his 95th birthday, i told him i would not assist him in any way and he said don't worry about it, i can figure it out all by myself and of course he died before he turned 95. >> the last jump was kind of a secret, i was on a train between new york city and albany i believe doing a podcast with a
political show and the guy says you know president bush is jumping out of a plane today? i said no and whoever interviewed me said he's going to jump right now and i said would you just tell me when he lands on the ground next. >> i should have called and told you because this is why, who wanted him to have the opportunity to change his mind so we didn't tell anyone until the day of because we wanted him to have the chance to say maybe i should not jump on my 90th birthday. >> apparently it is a hobby going down to the grandchildren from my understanding enough bush is going to jump out of a perfectly good plane also. [laughter] >> they love to jump, they do. >> that's all the questions we've got. it was lovely having you and
everyone should get the book, it's a great book. great stories in here, there's a george clooney story here that's great and also a story in here about how president bush determines whether prince is dead or alive which is, has anybody called him? well, no, sir. anyway, it's a great book. love having you and get doctor college station, who got to see each other and have lunch. >> i would love to have lunch with you. i am your biggest fan, thank you so much, thank you to the national archives for hosting us tonight and read the book. it will help you lead a better life, i really do think that. ...