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Art of Compassion: George W. Bush Paints Soldiers

by Elizabeth Greenaway Read Profile arrow_right_alt

If you’ve seen George W. Bush’s name in the news since he left the White House, it’s probably for something relating to his painting hobby or his support of soldiers – or in this case, a combination of both.

On Friday, Veterans Day, Bush posted a photo on Instagram, stating that over the past several months, he’s painted portraits of wounded warriors who were injured during his administration – people he thinks about on Veterans Day and every day.

His post goes on to mention these paintings will be featured in a new book, “Portraits of Courage,” which will be released in 2017. According to the book’s website, the book will feature forewords by former First Lady Laura Bush and General Peter Pace, 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The proceeds will go to the George W. Bush Presidential Center and its Military Service Initiative.

There’s no doubt Bush has improved as a painter since he started. So what’s his advice to aspiring painters? “Never paint your wife or your mother.” A lesson he goes on to explain he learned first hand.

While Bush hasn’t been in the spotlight much since he departed from the White House in 2009, when he left office, he began painting. As his first order of business, he hired someone to teach him, telling the painting teacher: “There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body. Your job is to find it.”

There have been occasional glimpses into the paintings Bush has been working on over the past few years – one of which was when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” and revealed a portrait of Jay Leno. Then, in April of 2014, an exhibit at the George W. Bust Presidential Library and Museum revealed more than two dozen portraits the former president painted, on display and available to the public.

While this may be the first time we’re seeing a preview of this particular initiative to honor those who have served in the military, compassion for soldiers isn’t something new for Bush.

I had the honor to serve President Bush as a White House intern in the spring of 2008. Having a behind the scenes look at the White House for the semester was obviously a memorable experience, but one of the things I remember vividly was getting a glimpse of Bush’s faith and compassion when the cameras weren’t focused on him. Among those he had the most compassion for were the soldiers.

In 2008, the Soldier Ride® – a few-day, cross-country bike ride – began at the White House. At the kickoff event on the South Lawn, I was surrounded by soldiers – many of whom had lost limbs and had prosthetic arms and legs. It really put things into perspective for me, but the best part was watching President Bush interact with these soldiers – some of them too injured to ride – and a few parents, there in place of soldiers whose lives were lost.

I knew then he had a passion for soldiers and their families – and that has only shown more in the years following his presidency through a variety of initiatives, including this painting project.

Regardless of what you think about his policies, you can’t deny George W. is a pretty talented, compassionate guy.


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