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The Man I Knew

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This author confirmed the respect and love that I have had for so many years for this wonderful man and his family.  Jean, thank you for sharing  such wonderful memories.    Thank you to the publishers for a wonderful book.
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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it countless times. If there’s a best seller and a presidential biography side-by-side, I’ll always go with the presidential biography. That’s why, when NetGalley and Twelve books offered me The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post-Presidency, I gladly jumped into the fray. The book was released to the public on June 1, 2021. All opinions offered are my own.

From Goodreads: “As chief of staff, Jean Becker had a ringside seat to the never-boring story of George Herbert Walker Bush’s life post-presidency, including being at his side when he died and subsequently facing the challenge-and great honor-of being in charge of his state funeral. Full of heart and wisdom, THE MAN I KNEW is a vibrant behind-the-scenes look into the ups and downs of heading up the office of a former president by one of the people who knew him best.”


I’ve already read the official biography of George H.W. Bush, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush  by Jon Meacham, and came away with a better sense of Bush the diplomat and statesman. I also read 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush so I had a better understanding of Bush as a father and grandfather. But The Man I Knew provides something different: a look a a post-presidency that lasted 26 years and was full of variety.

Politics is largely ignored in Bush’s post-presidency, which seemed surprising at first. But as I got further into the book, I could see why there was an absence of politics: George Bush was largely apolitical after he left office. Sure, he made appearances at the Republican National Conventions and supported his son when he was president, but he largely stayed out of the fray. In keeping with past presidents, he did not stick his nose into current events and offer advice, either publicly or privately.

Becker shares memories from letters from George Bush and herself, sometimes encapsulating events in a letter to her siblings, sometimes in memos to staff. Sometimes she shares stories and recreates conversations to her best ability by asking other witnesses their recollections to gather a consensus. What she reveals is a man who cared greatly for his family above anything else, who always tried to be right and true, had a great sense of humor, and lived life to the fullest right up until the end.

This book made me laugh out loud quite a few times. And even though I don’t normally cry at books, I got wistful more than a few times. I got to know our 41st president a lot better and could not think of a better one-term president or a more decent man. I think, when describing George H.W. Bush, Brian Mulroney summed him up during his eulogy at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.:

“No occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable that George Herbert Walker Bush… There is a word for this: it is called ‘leadership’–and let me tell you that when George Bush was President of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew they were dealing with a true gentleman, a genuine leader–one who was distinguished, resolute and brave.”

George Bush was able to cross party lines. He not only famously became best friends with Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him for a second term in the White House (so much so that his children refer to Clinton as the ‘brother from another mother’), he and President Obama got along famously as well. “President Obama called President Bush and told him he would like to give him the Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest civilian honor. President Bush was deeply touched. In bestowing the award a few months later, President Obama cited President Bush’s long resume’ of public service and commended him for ending the Cold War, among other accomplishments. But the words that touched President Bush the most were these: ‘His humility and decency reflects the very best of the American spirit.'”

As for the lighter moments, there was the occasion of the CIA headquarters being named for Bush, even though he only held the position as director for less than a year. “As Mrs. Bush used to say in her speeches: ‘It was a tremendous honor… but frankly bewildering. Why would an agency dedicated to intelligence name their headquarters after someone who celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday by jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 12,500 feet?'”

As Becker admits, working for the Bush’s was a blessing, filled with joy, but also with many challenges. “I feel incredibly blessed to work for them, yet there are challenges. I have been told by Mikhail Gorbachev to shut up, but I’ve been kissed by Tom Selleck; I’ve been yelled at by the President of the United States but blessed by the Pope. I have picked up the phone at 7 a.m. only to hear Barbara Bush say to me, “Have you totally lost your mind,” but next week I move my office for five months to Kennebunkport, Maine… Yes, I think the highs greatly outweigh the occasional lows.”

The author learned many things during her several decades with the Bushes: think big, make a difference, live life with joy, think of the other guy, don’t be afraid to get into the ring. But she also admits that working for the former president was also a big more complicated than that. “Be open to new ideas. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Don’t be afraid to say you were wrong. Don’t judge. Don’t hold grudges.”

I’ve read or listened to more than 100 books this year and have to say that this is my favorite so far. Rarely have we seen a more human side to a former president. I highly recommend it.
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This was an exceptional book about George H W Bush. I am glad the author was part of his inner circle of friends and comrades, she obviously cared a lot about George and Barbara. This book was less about the politics and focused more on Bush Sr's life before and especially after his one term as the 41st President. I love learning about his friendships with other former Presidents like Obama and Clinton and their goals as private citizens to still help the country. I liked that his friendships did not matter about politics. I also enjoyed leaning more about his family life and how he grew up.

I really loved and enjoyed this book and am getting this in hardcover, since it has already been published. Highly recommended as a presidential biography.

Thanks to Netgalley, Jean Becker and Twelve Books for giving me an ARC after this book has already been published in exchange for an honest review. Recommended this to everyone I know who enjoys positive nonfiction.

Already available: 6/1/21
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For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: https://www.ManOfLaBook.com

The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post-Presidency by Jean Becker is the author’s memoir about the decades she spent working for the 41st President. Ms. Becker served as Barbara Bush’s Chief of Staff, and was hired to be George Bush’s Chief of Staff during his post-presidency years.

This book is a fascinating look into person that is George H.W. Bush, what made him tick, as well as his personality. The presidency of Bush 41 has been reevaluated since the day he left office, which shows us how, from a distance, without a doubt we can see things that we didn’t at the moment.

The best thing about The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post-Presidency by Jean Becker is that I felt like I’ve known Mr. Bush better, above all through her personal anecdotes and observations. Ms. Becker love and reverence for Mr. and Mrs. Bush, and indeed for the whole Bush clan, is obvious on every page.

It is always fascinating to read about the behind-the-scenes stories but people who were there. Whether it’s the from the staff, Secret Service agents, or the now famous Presidents Club. The author who accompanied the Bush family for decades, until their death has collected many anecdotes worthy of the family and how they would want to be remembered.

From my reading on recent American history and current events, I have yet to read a bad word on George H.W. Bush. It says a lot about a person when one of his best friends came to be the person who handed him a defeat for his second presidential term.

Every story in this book shines a light on the person that we all only knew from media coverage. I especially enjoyed the story where Mr. Bush was going to dedicated a new emergency room in Cameron, La (that was devastated by Hurricane Rita) and wanted the star of the TV show ER, George Clooney, to tag along. Only that Mr. Clooney has left the show 7 years earlier, but the Bushes didn’t know because they were watching reruns.
Mr. Clooney did show up, and the two Georges were a hit.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Bush have always impressed me with being wonderful people, this book cemented this impression. The couple dedicated their post-presidency career to family and charity, going out of their way and convenience for both with style, grace, and a wonderful sense of humor.
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This is a biographical account of former president George H. W. Bush, detailing what his life was like after his one term in office.  The book is written Jean Becker, who spent the last 25 years of Bush's life as his Chief of Staff.  The book does not focus on Bush's politics, but gives insight into who he was as a person.  The book starts with a list of family, friends, and professional associates; and a brief biography of each.  

The prologue starts out with a humorous story about Becker having to tell former president Bush that his friend, the prince of Saudi Arabia, had likely been assassinated.  While Becker was waiting for the CIA to confirm this unpleasant rumor, and news agencies were reporting his suspected death; Bush called up the prince directly, and just asked him if he was still alive.  Throughout this book it is apparent that Becker has a great sense of humor, and it seems as though President Bush did as well. 

The first chapter deals with the former president's transition to civilian life, and dealing with a bit of uncertainty and depression.  There are interesting details here that make Bush seem more like a regular person; such as The Bush's trips to Sam's Club to shop in bulk, or the former president being more devastated over losing his dog Ranger than he was over losing the Presidency.

Chapter two starts to get into the whirlwind of events, speeches, and activities the former president embarked upon, starting a couple years after he left office.  Becker explains how Bush regrouped, pulled himself together and started planning out this new phase of his life.

Chapter three is mostly focused on the role of the former president and first lady in their sons' political campaigns.  The inclusion of some letters that Bush wrote to other people gives a nice window into what his priorities were, and how much he cared about his family.  It was also neat to learn that George H. W. Bush hated using his middle two initials; and so was excited to be referred to as “41” when someone suggested this as a solution after his son became the new President Bush, aka “43.”

The book details the unlikely friendship that “41” had with former president Bill Clinton, and how much respect they had for each other.  Their cooperation helped raise funds for great humanitarian efforts, especially in the wake of disasters like the Tsunami of 2004.  I was surprised to learn that Bush even became friends with President Obama later in life.  

Chapter 13 is filled with many letters from Bush to friends and family, and these letters really illustrate how much of a priority family was to him.  Above all else, the health, well-being and success of his family members was clearly the most important thing to him.  

Overall I enjoyed this window into the life of “41” after his term in office.  It is nice to read a book like this, that doesn't focus on politics much at all, but instead tries to describe the man himself.  Whether you agree with his politics or not, what you cannot deny is that this was an exceptional man, that acted with class, and cared deeply about his family.  His humanitarian efforts after his term in office helped millions of people, and it seems as though he was a great father and grandfather.
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This book is a must read for any fan of HW. I received an ARC of this book and 5 pages in placed a preorder for the book to share with family and friends. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a tell all exposing the former President, or if you have a preconceived disdain for him. 

Jean Becker states at the beginning that this book is not a tell all, but instead is essentially her love letter to the incredible life she witnessed spending so much time with the Bush family. She did not disappoint at all. 

Becker shared the soft and loving side of HW through personal stories, a number of beautiful letters to his family and friends, and the eulogies shared at his funeral service. 

This book took me longer than expected to read, but it was because I savored every moment. I can’t recommend this book enough. 

Becker also is an eloquent writer and the flow of the book kept me hooked.
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I absolutely loved this look into the post-presidency years of George H W Bush. I loved getting to read about his attitude on life. I think Jean Becker is an excellent writer and you can tell how much she admired her former boss. I can’t wait to buy this when it is published,
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This book is exactly what I'd been looking for to cover the personality of George HW Bush.  Every single thing I've read about him, and Barbara, describe them as wonderful people.  This book brings in some anecdotes, but also letters from former President Bush, and insight into the man behind the presidency.  I read through this like fiction, and it made me sad that we no longer have him on earth.  Thank you Jean Becker for this great book. Thank you to NetGalley and Twelve Books for an e-ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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A classy, caring tribute filled with behind-the-scenes stories, sure to delight fans and supporters who want to spend some time remembering the first President George Bush.

Thanks to Twelve and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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