The former president’s chief of staff, Jean Becker, spoke with his granddaughter, TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager, about how he dealt with defeat.
George H.W. Bush will always be best remembered for once holding the highest office in the land, but according to his longtime chief of staff, his life after the presidency was just as remarkable.
That’s when Jean Becker’s tenure with the 41st president began, shortly after he left office in 1993 following his defeat to the 42nd president, Bill Clinton.
“For the first couple of months after he lost the election, he was much quieter than usual,” Becker shared during a Monday morning chat with Bush’s granddaughter, TODAY’s own Jenna Bush Hager. “He sort of took his time to figure out what he wanted the next chapter in his life to be.”
Earlier this month, the former chief of staff released a book titled, “The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H.W. Bush’s Post-Presidency,” and Jenna noted that she even learned new details about her “Gampy” in the pages of it.
Photos courtesy of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
“I had never seen it before, but he wrote this list of things that can help somebody get over losing the presidency of the United States, which also is kind of a guide to life to anybody that’s had heartbreak or failure,” Jenna mentioned of one such topic covered in the book.
“No. 1: Get out of Dodge — fast,” Becker read a portion of that list from her new release. “You’re history on that cold January day, so be pleasant about it. Smile a lot.”
In the full passage, he went on to add, “Try not to wave to the huge inaugural crowd too much. They’re there to see the new guy.”
The list went on to include a wide range of advice that he offered to himself and other future former presidents, everything from remembering to grab some napkins and notepads with the presidential seal on them during the final flight on Air Force One to vowing not to pen “op-ed pieces all the time” or to criticize his successor.
The entries stressed feeling gratitude and behaving humbly. One gem included a note stating, “When you’re out walking your dog, try not to argue when you see the guy down the street who always insists on giving his views on every issue.”
In another he wrote, “Always count your blessings. Quietly remember the wonders of the White House.”
Becker shared her personal favorite from the list, the final entry that read, “Hug your grandkids.”
Jenna said that one “makes me want to cry.” Then she asked the woman who worked with her grandfather until his death in 2018 what it was that she most admired about him.
“He knew how to handle the speed bumps in life,” Becker explained. “And as you know, he had a lot — he was shot down during World War II, (he and wife Barbara) lost their daughter Robin to leukemia, he lost the election. He was so resilient. He knew how to pick himself up, dust himself off and move on and do great things.”