This morning, President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush surprised our student body by joining us for All School Meeting in Cochran Chapel at Phillips Academy. The All School Meeting featured Mary Kate Cary and the film she produced, “41 on 41,” about the life of President Bush.
Good morning, Andover.
This morning we gather to reflect, as we often do, on Phillips Academy’s motto, non sibi: not for oneself. We have many role models among those who have gone before us at Andover. Some of them have generously presented at All School Meetings, sharing with us in this chapel their stories of what it was about their time at Andover that motivated them to live a life embodying the non sibi credo. Last year Dr. Vanessa Kerry ’95, founder of the non-profit SEED Global Health, encouraged you to consider how you might make a difference. Next month author Julia Alvarez ’67 will talk about how she employs storytelling to ignite awareness and activism for humanitarian causes.
Today, in celebration of non sibi, we welcome Mary Kate Cary who has created a film assembling the voices of 41 people describing an Andover alumnus who has dedicated his life to public service in a remarkable career spanning seven decades, in multiple roles, culminating in serving in our nation’s highest office. That alumnus is George Herbert Walker Bush, Andover class of 1942.
As a White House speechwriter from 1988 to 1992, Mary Kate Cary authored over 100 domestic and international addresses by President Bush. She is a member of the advisory board to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. She has remained in close contact with the President, collaborating with him on book projects, including Speaking of Freedom, a collection of the President’s favorite speeches. Mary Kate is a contributing editor and columnist at US News and World Report and a regular political commentator on National Public Radio. Still a speechwriter, she works with a variety of political and corporate clients and has taught speechwriting at Georgetown, American, and Texas A&M Universities. Mary Kate’s relationship with the President gave her unique insights as the executive producer of the film 41 on 41. The film captures the words of the President’s family and colleagues to portray George Bush’s deep commitment to service and leadership and his generous capacity for friendship and humor.
Before Mary Kate begins her presentation, I’d like to welcome some special guests who have joined us today:
• President Bush’s sister, Nancy Ellis, mother of Alexander Ellis, Andover class of 1967
• Dick Phelps, Andover class of 1942, the President’s close friend and baseball teammate at Yale
• Dick’s wife, Sally Phelps, mother of Andover alumni in the classes of 1973 and 89, and grandmother of Matthew Jacobs ’14
In addition, we have the privilege of welcoming to the chapel this morning one of the 41 storytellers featured in the film. In fact, she is the chief story teller. Please join me in welcoming to the stage of Cochran Chapel, Mrs. Barbara Bush, and her husband, the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, Andover class of 1942.
Welcome back, President Bush, and thank you, Mrs. Bush, for joining us here today. We are honored by your presence – and by the lifetime of good choices you have made to serve others, in the spirit of non sibi.
George Herbert Walker Bush, you arrived at Andover as a twelve year old boy and graduated six years later as a young man, immediately immersing yourself in service to your country during World War II.
During your Andover years, you demonstrated a commitment to leadership, involved in community service and student government, serving as a proctor and captain of the soccer and baseball teams. You won your first Presidential election here – you served Andover as Senior Class President. You were known as “Poppy” Bush, renowned for your ability to rally others and to encourage your peers to engage in The Big Ideas of the Day. As President of the Society of Inquiry you organized lectures on world affairs and religious topics.
During your senior year, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, you and your schoolmates heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following June, on your 18th birthday, you deferred your acceptance to Yale and instead were sworn in to the Navy as a Seaman Second Class. The following year you became the nation’s youngest Naval aviator and served with distinction in the Pacific arena, flying 58 combat missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.
After the war, you earned your degree from Yale Phi Beta Kappa, embarked on a career in the petroleum sector, and entered a life of public service in 1966. You have served in Congress as a member of the House of Representatives, from Texas. Other leaders recognized your acumen and people skills, appointed you as Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. You were elected Vice-President in 1981 and, in 1988, became the 41st President of the United States.
Throughout this illustrious career, you remained loyal and close to Andover. You served as a trustee from 1963 – 1979 and then as honorary chair of Campaign Andover, the most successful capital campaign in independent school history when it closed at $208.9M in 2003. In recognition of your public service and global leadership, you received Phillips Academy’s two highest honors: the Claude Moore Fuess Award in 1981 and the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction in 2012.
During your Presidency you offered inspired leadership during an era of great change in the world order: the unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. You led efforts to improve global wellbeing through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, to improve environmental wellbeing through significant amendments to the Clean Air Act, and to personal wellbeing through the creation of the American with Disabilities Act.
You consistently encouraged American citizens to inspire and mobilize each other to take action to change the world through “service to neighbor, service to nation.” In your words, ”What government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no bounds.” You called your fellow citizens to action as volunteers. Your vision for “a thousand points of light” lives on through the foundation of the same name. You twice joined with former political opponent, now friend, former President Bill Clinton to lead major humanitarian fundraising efforts in response to natural disasters after Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In 2010 President Obama awarded you the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, citing your life as a “testament that public service is a noble calling. His humility and decency reflects the very best of the American spirit.”
Mr. President, you reflect the very best of Andover’s non sibi spirit. Today we have seven Bush scholars among us. These students were chosen for their outstanding character and leadership potential. Their Andover career is underwritten by a scholarship fund set up by the trustees to “honor and encourage the example George Bush’s life represents – a model of civic commitment, loyalty, and social responsibility embodying the best of both America and Andover.” We thank you for your example – a life of non sibi – and for the inspiration that you provide to every new generation of Andover students.