After leaving office in 2009, George W. Bush did what most former presidents would do. He breathed a sigh of relief and invested himself in a hobby that would allow him to express the memories and feelings he harbored within.
He Knew Everyone He Painted
He began painting veterans who were injured in war, those he had met and bonded with, mourned with and prayed with since September 11, 2001.
Bush painted the men and women as a way to honor their service to our country and to show his respect for their sacrifice and courage.
Inspired By Winston Churchill
Bush’s paintings were prompted by his thoughts about the wounded veterans he had met while in office. He pondered their backgrounds, their service, their injuries and recovery.
More than anything, the painting helped Bush relax. And, if British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who painted extensively, could do it, so could he. He was determined to try new things and hoped to inspire others along the way.
Finding His Inner Rembrandt
Bush went so far as to hire an art teacher to help him with his technique and to aid him in discovering his “inner Rembrandt.”
That’s one tall order for any teacher.
Whether the former commander in chief succeeded in finding his “inner Rembrandt” or simply overachieved the expression of his compassion for those who’d served our great nation, the results were emotionally charged and lauded by all who viewed them.
“Portraits of Courage”
The final result was bound and titled to share with the world. “Portraits of Courage,” that holds 66 portraits, a collection of poignant stories and a four-mural painting Bush created to honor military veterans.
The four- mural piece Bush painted is a collection of all the men and women he also featured individually. Behind each face is story of bravery and sacrifice.
A Humbling Experience
For the men and women who see themselves pictured in the “Portraits of Courage” exhibit, it’s a humbling experience. Melissa Stockwell appears in Bush’s book of portraits. In fact, she’s dancing with the ex-president, her red, white and blue artificial leg and all.
Stockwell was the first female ever to lose a limb in combat. The Paralympian and Purple Heart recipient feels honored to have been able to serve her country, no matter the cost. She lost her leg, but not her passion for life and liberty.
To Ponder, Not Enjoy
The paintings from Bush’s book, “Portraits of Courage” hang on display at the presidential library at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, TX.
All proceeds from the book go toward the George W. Bush Institute, a policy think tank dedicated to assisting veterans.
The portraits, memories shared and real-live humans they’re based upon are mesmerizing. You’ll definitely get goosebumps, as well as a whole lot of thoughts to digest upon leaving.
Watch this video of Bush discussing the work. What do you think?