A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House

A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House

by George W. Bush, Mickey Herskowitz

I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation. The president of the United States is the president of every single American, every race and every background. Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests, and I will work to earn your respect.

I will be guided by President Jefferson's sense of purpose: to stand


I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation. The president of the United States is the president of every single American, every race and every background. Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests, and I will work to earn your respect.

I will be guided by President Jefferson's sense of purpose: to stand for principle, to be reasonable in manner, and, above all, to do great good for the cause of freedom and harmony.

The presidency is more than an honor, it is more than an office. It is a charge to keep, and I will give it my all.

--George W. Bush, December 13, 2000, Texas House of Representatives

In A Charge to Keep, George W, Bush offers readers a warm, insightful, and honest look at the personal and political experiences that have shaped his values and led to his decision to run for president. The George W. Bush who leaps off these pages has his mother's wit and down-to-earth personality, his father's energy and competitive drive, and his own unique style and philosophy.

Written with his long term communications director, Karen Hughes, A Charge to Keep is a revealing look into the background, philosophy, family, and heart of our new president.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Despite the subtitle, this book, first published in 1999, does not include any report of the President's 2000 campaign nor the postelection drama of the Florida vote count. Typical of the books that presidential candidates write to introduce themselves to the American public and promote their campaigns, the narrative gives insight into the experiences that shaped Bush's life and his decision to run for president. Co-written with his communications director, Karen Hughes, the book stresses his educational reform successes as governor of Texas and describes faith-based programs supported by the state's agencies as examples of "compassionate conservatism." Bush also offers background and explanations for his decisions on several controversial issues, such as the death penalty and health-care reform. The overall tone of the book projects the "uniter not divider" image. Recommended for public libraries that do not own the 1999 edition. Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial Series
Edition description:
First Perennial Edition
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.66(d)

Read an Excerpt

Most lives have defining moments. Moments that forever change you. Moments that set you on a different course. Moments of recognition so vivid and so clear that everything later seems different. Renewing my faith, getting married, and having children top my list of those memorable moments. Mine also includes deciding to run for Governor of Texas and listening to Mark Craig's sermon.

I've heard a lot of different sermons in a lot of different churches. I grew up in the Presbyterian church in Midland, served communion as an altar boy at an Episcopal church in Houston, married into the Methodist church. I've attended revivals with Billy Graham, chapel at Camp David, Easter sunrise service in small-town Texas. I've been spellbound by the passionate preaching of Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes in Dallas. I even spoke from a pulpit, when my friend Pastor Ed Young of the Second Baptist Church in Houston invited me to visit his congregation. I've heard powerful sermons, inspiring sermons, and a few too many boring sermons. But this sermon reached out and grabbed me, and changed my life.

"I am going to give each of you a huge sum, $86,400," the minister told the several hundred people gathered in the downtown Austin church. "I'm going to give it to you right now. It's all yours--with just one small catch. You have to spend it all, every bit, today. Use it or lose it. No saving for a rainy day. No placing any of it in the stock market or a retirement account. No time for special orders or comparison shopping: $86,400. Right now. Buy a car or a boat or jewelry or all of the above, but you have to spend it all today."

Imagine the extravaganza of consumption. At what store would you start, how would you begin to spend all that cash? Just as we in the congregation got lost in the possibilities, the pastor called us back to reality. He wasn't talking money, he was talking time. Eighty-six thousand four hundred nonrefundable seconds every day. Use them or lose them.

The sermon was a rousing call to make the most of every moment, discard reservations, throw caution to the wind, rise to the challenge. And it came during the prayer service two hours before I would take the oath of office as Governor of Texas for a second time, pledging to uphold the Constitution and laws of the state of Texas and the United States of America, so help me God.

Most of my family and closest friends were in the church with me. Laura and our twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, Mom, Dad, Laura's mom, and two of my three brothers, their spouses and children, various aunts, uncles, and cousins, all sat shoulder to shoulder, filling the first several rows of upright wooden pews in the First United Methodist Church in Austin. My sister Dorothy was ill, and my brother Jeb was home in Florida, putting together his new administration.

Just two weeks before, the family had gathered in Tallahassee to watch that Governor Bush take his oath of office. The day had been sunny but unusually bitter cold, the temperature in the low twenties, the windchill below ten.

That day had been a long time coming. A treasured picture from my first inauguration shows Mother and Dad and the rest of my family watching as I took the oath of office. Dad was wiping a tear from his face, Jeb was standing behind him in the second row, looking pensive, no doubt thinking of what might have been. He was the brother who was supposed to have won in November of 1994, the Bush brother given the better shot at defeating Florida Governor Lawton Chiles than I had to upset popular incumbent Texas Governor Ann Richards. But it had not worked out that way, and Dad spoke for the whole family on election night when he told the press, "Our heads are in Texas, but our hearts are in Florida."

I was so proud of my younger brother. Jeb hadn't let defeat deter him; in fact, he said it had made him a better man. He displayed no hint of bitterness, despite allegations that campaign shenanigans had unfairly cost him votes. He was that hardest thing to be, gracious in defeat. After the election, he had taken stock of his life, spent more time with his family, converted to Catholicism, started a charter school in inner-city Miami, and kept working, reaching out, preparing for next time.

I could identify on a smaller scale, having come in second in a two-man race for Congress in 1978. Defeat humbles you. You work, you dream, you hope the people see it your way, then suddenly it's over and they did not. It's hard not to take a political loss personally; after all, it's your own name spelled out there on the ballot. Yet if you believe in the wisdom of the voters, as I do, you get over the disappointment, accept the verdict, and move on. My father and mother, who taught us so many of life's most important lessons, modeled that for us, too, in 1992.

Nineteen ninety-two was a tough year for our family. I watched as my dad's approval ratings plummeted from a record-shattering high of 92 percent just after Operation Desert Storm to only 38 percent when the American people voted in November. I had watched during that long year from my North Dallas office window as cars pulled in and out of Ross Perot's headquarters across the street, picking up signs for yards that should have been home to Republican voters. I had watched as Bill Clinton's catchphrase--"It's the economy, stupid"--became the defining message of the campaign, even though the economists said and the economy showed (although too late to make any difference) that recovery was under way.

Our family had gathered for election day at The Houstonian Hotel, in Mom and Dad's hometown of Houston, Texas. The day before, I had traveled with Dad on what would be his last campaign journey. He campaigned hard, always optimistic about his chances. Just before our last stop, Dad, Mary Matalin (ever the loyal soldier), the Oak Ridge Boys and I gathered in Dad's cabin on Air Force One. At Dad's request, the Oaks sang "Amazing Grace." It was a touching moment; Mary and I wiped tears from our eyes as we both sensed the impending defeat.

Copyright © 1999 by George W. Bush

Meet the Author

George W. Bush is the two-time governor of Texas, Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces and President of the United States of America.

Mickey Herskowitz is the coauthor of several autobiographies, including ones by Dan Rather, Bob Uecker, Howard Cosell, and Nolan Ryan. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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