Former President George W. Bush said Wednesday that the one presidential perk he misses most is riding on Air Force One.
"In eight years, they never lost my baggage," the 43rd president joked at the George W. Bush Institute, where he delivered a more-than-20-minute talk on veterans' issues, one of the most expansive speeches he’s given since leaving the White House, the Dallas News reported.
"A lot of people ask me, you know, do I miss much about being president," Bush said. "The answer's really no. I mean I miss the people I served with. I miss Air Force One," The Hill reported.
"I do miss saluting men and women who volunteered to defend our nation during the war," he added,
according to Politico. "Many are coming home and are preparing for new missions as civilians, and I intend to salute these men and women for the rest of my life."
Bush said he’s committed to helping veterans make the transition to civilian life.
"Through the military service initiative, the Bush Institute is going to help," he said, according to excerpts printed by the Dallas News. "We are focused, and we will be relentless in serving our vets . . . Our country can never really fully repay our vets, but we ought to try."
He said the institute’s annual events that focus on wounded warriors are "important, but they are really not enough. They aren’t transformative enough," he said. "Until now we really haven’t asked the important questions, like, ‘Who are these vets? And what do they need?’" Bush said.
He added that the civilian-military divide is "exacerbated by public perceptions, that the veteran is either a hero or to be pitied. Most veterans don’t consider themselves heroes or victims. They see themselves as Americans who took on a tough job and did it well," he said.
Bush also praised an initiative spearheaded by his library that works to help veterans with their academic training.
"At the Bush Center, we believe it’s never too late to learn a new skill. Just ask Laura [Bush]," the president said, referring to the former first lady. "I promised you years ago she didn’t think she was marrying an oil painter."
Also speaking at the event Wednesday was second lady Dr. Jill Biden.
Forbes has reported
that Bush has made only rare public appearances since leaving office in 2009, explaining that he doesn’t think "it’s good for our country to undermine our president, and I don’t intend to do so."
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