Former President George W. Bush pulled back the curtain of the Oval Office and gave East Texans a picture of what his job was like during the high and low points.
“Here's what you learn,” he said. “You realize you're not it. You're a part of something bigger than yourself.”
He walked on the stage to a standing ovation. People in the audience were pumping their fists and whistling. One audience member shouted, “Bring back Bush,” at one point during the presentation.
He would receive at least two more standing ovations before the end of his speech.
The former president thanked East Texans for their role in electing him to office both as governor and president.
He also touted his book “Decision Points” which is set to be released in November.
“This will come as a shock to some people in our country who didn't think I could read a book, much less write one,” he quipped.
“I miss being pampered; I miss Air Force 1; I miss being commander in chief of an awesome group of (people),” he said.
But one thing he doesn't miss is the limelight.
Bush said during his first days out of office, he took his dog Barney on a walk around his new neighborhood in Dallas. He hadn't been on a walk in a neighborhood for almost a decade, he said, and it was a liberating feeling.
The experience also was new to Barney too who saw a neighbor's yard and took the opportunity to relieve himself.
“Ten days out of the presidency, there I was with a plastic bag in my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for eight years,” he said to many laughs.
Bush said it has been his faith, family and friends that have sustained him throughout his time in public office.
Bush shared about the principles that formed the foundation for much of his foreign and domestic policies.
He said he believes there is a God and one of the gifts of that God is for everyone to know freedom.
It is in part because of this belief that he stayed the course in Iraq and believes that country is a better place because of the fall of Saddam Hussein. But the battle continues, he said.
“I believe this country is engaged in an ideological struggle of a kind we have never seen before,” he said.
He said it was amazing to him that in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the Japanese Prime Minister called to express his willingness to work with the U.S. to enhance security. This came from a country that 60 years before was this nation's enemy.
“I firmly believe the same thing is going to happen in the Middle East,” he said.
During several points in his speech, he addressed the decisions he made in his life and jokingly said he was subconsciously touting his book, which is to be released next month.
“It's not a judgmental book,” he said. “It's not a Bush is cool (book).”
Bush said he sat in the White House with his economic advisors Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke three weeks into the economic downturn.
He said Bernanke told him, “If you don't do something significant, you're likely to see a depression greater than the Great Depression.”
“Depression, no depression,” Bush said. “It wasn't that hard for me, just so you know. I made the decision to use your money to prevent the collapse from happening.”
Bush talked about the influence that President Abraham Lincoln had on his presidency. He said he made a point to watch little television and instead to read quite often.
He read 12 biographies about Lincoln during his time in office.
“It's interesting to be making history and reading history,” he said. “I think he's the country's greatest president.”
He said Lincoln was a man of vision, a man who wanted to see a unified country. He also was a man of principle, who said all men are created equal under God, Bush said.
Bush, who pointed out that he does not compare himself to Lincoln, said he did try to emulate him in the way he treated soldiers. He called it a “paramount” duty to meet with the loved ones of troops who die in service.
He talked about one man, who after his relative had died in war, asked to receive a waiver so he could serve in his country despite his older age.
“Instead of letting the grief overwhelm him, this man stood to serve our country,” Bush said. “We are blessed with people like that.”
UT Tyler President Rodney H. Mabry called Bush the “most determined, principled, compassionate and successful” president this country has had.
Mabry presented Bush with a UT Tyler Patriots baseball jersey with his name and the No. 43 on the back as a gift of appreciation. He also said the university raised more than $200,000 for scholarships through a dinner that preceded the lecture.
The lecture and a dinner that preceded it were presented through the donations of numerous community members including Joseph and Louise Ornelas, Harold and Rosemary Beaird, Herb and Melvina Buie, Bill and Billie Hartley and the A.W. Riter Jr. Family Foundation, among others.