Bush Most `Surprised' by Prayers of Americans
The thing that most surprised former President George W. Bush was not international crises like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nor the resilience of the Iraqi insurgency, but rather the impact of prayers from the American people, he said.
"The biggest surprise of the presidency was the calming effect of prayer by total strangers," Bush told about 700 college students and business leaders during a private appearance last Friday (March 12) at Southeastern University, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in
Bush said he was shocked and humbled by how many people prayed for him. "Imagine being a president of the United States and innumerable people would come up to you on a rope line and they're not going to say `I want a bridge' or `I want something special.' They come up to you and say, `I'm here to tell you, Mr. President, that I pray for you.' You gain strength as a leader by recognizing you need help."
Both the president and former first lady Laura Bush spoke at the university's Leadership Forum, the first time they have spoken on the same program since leaving the White House.
The former president talked at length about his battle with alcoholism, during a candid hour-long conversation with Southeastern chancellor Tommy Barnett. Bush said it was a private conversation with evangelist Billy Graham in his parents' living room – after his fifth glass of wine – that finally convinced him to give up the bottle.
"I wouldn't be sitting here as president of the United States if I hadn't quit drinking," he said.
Bush said he regretted some of his tough talk about terrorists after 9/11. "If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't say `dead or alive' or `bring `em on."' But he explained: "The enemy has got to know we were going to find them and hunt them down – there I go again! – we would
Bush talked openly about practicing his Christianity in office, including sharing his faith with the Russian and Chinese heads of state.
He said he told the Chinese president that Christianity is good for China. "Wouldn't you like to have a people whose first obligation is to love?" he recalled telling the Chinese leader.