Golf Digest honors President George W. Bush in the December 2014 issue as a Golfer Who Gives Back, for his involvement in the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative. Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde interviewed the president on Oct. 1 at his Warrior Open at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.
GD: Why did you start your Military Service Initiative?
GWB: I feel a special kinship for our military. Because, unfortunately, I became a wartime president. And committed our military in the defense of our country to difficult assignments. I tell people all the time, I don't miss much about being president; I do miss looking in the eyes of people who volunteered to serve. And so not only do I feel a kinship, I feel an obligation and a duty to help. Our Military Service Initiative is a way to contribute to the betterment of our military and to remind Americans what an obligation we owe them, whether it be helping them find work, or dealing with their head injuries, or being kind, or housing issues. And we've got some interesting studies going on at the [Bush] Center, along with Syracuse University, for example. You know there is a language barrier between vets and the civilian population. They speak different languages. And we are gonna try and help employers, for example, to better understand skill sets of the vets. And the vets better understand how to speak the language of employers, to then get better jobs. But golf is something I love. It's been a part of my family's history. And I figured that golf would be a good way, a good platform, to honor the groups helping vets and to show Americans that, you know, many Americans think their life is miserable. Well, here's somebody whose life actually is really miserable, and yet they've overcome it through sport. And that's why we did the MSI, as well as the golf tournament.
GD: Golf Digest just published a piece on the subject of grit. There's a body of work in education today that talks about how overcoming adversity, keeping optimistic in the face of difficulty, is the real secret of success. That seems to be right in line with what you're doing.
GWB: You have to be optimistic about golf. I mean it's physically demanding, particularly if you're on one leg. But it's psychologically demanding regardless of your physical infirmities. I mean, it's a tough sport. You've got to be disciplined and optimistic. And if you have a bad hole, you've got to be optimistic that you'll do well on the next hole. And these golfers out here today are optimistic guys. And they don't complain. And you know, some friends of mine, or some people I know, they say, "Don't you feel terrible about the injuries inflicted upon these golfers?" I say, of course I do. But obviously, they haven't talked to some of these men or women who say, "I'd do it again. And I don't regret. I'm gonna live my life to the fullest. And golf has helped." It has helped them recover.