Though the main attraction at a private gathering at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens Monday, July 16, included former President George W. Bush, it was a mostly nonpolitical evening.
The 43rd president neither excoriated nor overtly praised President Barack Obama, for example, nor did he wade much into the health care debate despite the occasion of his visit being hospital-related – the 100th anniversary of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.
Bush was accompanied by his wife Laura and “interviewed” by his daughter Jenna for what was set up to be a question-and-answer session at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens Monday night. The main theme was what the Bushes have been up to since leaving the White House, and guests at the event included civic leaders, board members and community partners.
Baptist’s yearlong centennial celebration actually kicked off late last year with a fundraiser for the hospital’s new comprehensive cancer care center that featured recording artist Patti LaBelle.
When the talk turned to political topics throughout the evening, Bush stayed generally around the edges without venturing into controversy, according to multiple sources in attendance for the gathering, which was closed to the media. He talked about the importance of family and about the things he’s been busy with lately, both the major initiatives and the little things, like his new hobby of oil painting.
That’s not to say the evening was completely free of politics. For example, reflecting on things he wishes had gone differently during his presidency, Bush allowed that he’d like to have been able to pass immigration and social security reform.
He only ventured into the health care debate in a philosophical sense. One of the questions Jenna asked him was about why he asked Congress to boost spending for health care efforts around the world, and he recalled how during his presidency the U.S. spent billions on aid to Africa.
“First, human life matters,” Bush said. “To whom much is given, much is required.”
He described the United States as “by far the richest nation in the world” and that a president of the richest nation in the world who’s not focused on helping others is “shameful.”
About the domestic health care situation, he praised the country’s health system, doctors and technology as all first-rate, while at the same time noting that “we have to control costs.” One thing that helps do that, he said, is competition, though he cautioned against a government that gets too “heavy-handed.”
(The Daily News will have more on this story in the Wed., July 18 print edition.)