West Point presents Sylvanus Thayer Award to George W. Bush
By MICHAEL RANDALL | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: October 20, 2017
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Former President George W. Bush accepted the Sylvanus Thayer Award from the West Point Association of Graduates on Thursday night.
The award is presented each year to a nationally prominent person whose career exemplifies the West Point motto: Duty. Honor. Country.
Noting that past winners have included everyone from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to his own father, Bush said his selection "arouses a sense of pride and humility in me."
In preparing his speech, Bush said he studied up on Thayer, a former West Point superintendent who he said was noted for a relentless focus on order and scholarship and who founded a dialectic society at the school.
"That makes my selection somewhat puzzling," Bush said.
His speech was dotted with light moments at his own expense. He recounted a recent dinner conversation between him and "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels, who asserted it was his show's writers, not Bush, who came up with the term "strategery."
"For 16 years, I thought I said it first," Bush said. But then he had a comeback for Michaels: "But could your writers come up with misunderestimate?"
Bush and those presenting the award devoted time to the most serious aspect of his two terms as president: the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on terror.
"He tried to help us as a nation make sense of a senseless act," West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. said.
And it was Bush, Caslen said, who gave the commencement address at West Point in May 2002.
Bush recalled that day, too, when he told the graduates that "some West Point classes are also commissioned by history."
"In the years that followed, West Point graduates have advanced the cause of freedom," Bush said. And some, he said, gave their life in the war on terrorism.
Now new challenges are facing America, Bush said. The evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and the threat of cyberterrorism. He said future West Point graduates are being prepared to take on all those challenges.
"We're a nation waiting for a reminder of its better self," Bush said. "I believe that reminder can be found right here at West Point."
Bush said he often is asked if he misses being president.
"Not really," he said. "I miss the pastry chef."
He quickly followed that quip with, "I miss being commander in chief of selfless men and women. ...I 'm honored to be in your midst."
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