Former President George H.W. Bush's award was accepted by his granddaughter, Lauren Bush Lauren.


In 1990, with the federal deficit at $200 billion and the Congressional Budget Office suggesting it could double, President Bush negotiated with congressional Democrats to enact a budget deal which included spending cuts and tax increases aimed at reducing the deficit by approximately $500 billion over the following five years.

The 1990 bipartisan budget agreement set annual limits on discretionary spending by Congress on defense, domestic programs and international affairs. It also, for the first time, created “pay as you go” rules for entitlements and taxes.

In order to reach the deal, Bush agreed to a tax increase as part of the compromise, and he was pilloried by conservatives for doing so. Although he recognized the 1990 budget deal might doom his prospects for reelection, he did what he thought was best for the country and has since been credited with helping to lay the foundation of the economic growth of the 1990s that followed.

Acceptance Speech Transcript:

This year's recipient, former President George H.W. Bush, asked his granddaughter, Lauren Bush Lauren, to accept the 2014 Profile in Courage Award on his behalf. Lauren's remarks follow below.

Thank you very much. I would like to open by reading a short message from my grandfather:

"I wish to send my sincere thanks to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and their selection committee for the decision they rendered that led to today’s proceedings. I can only hope that the vote itself wasn’t too excruciating or too close for the members. I recall how shortly after leaving the White House the school district board where we used to live in Midland, Texas decided to name the local elementary school after yours truly. After it passed by a landslide 3-2 vote, it was explained that the two dissenting votes were based on the fact that: 'We normally only name things after dead people.'
"At age 89 and seven-eighths, let me assure you kind words really do matter. And to receive this award with such an illustrious history – and bearing such an illustrious name – means more than mere tongue can tell. I am sorry I could not be there in person, but a nasty rumor spread that your menu encompassed 'a deconstructed study in broccoli,' so I have gamely sent a special emissary to confront the florets. Thank you again for remembering what our team tried to do lo those many years ago."

One thing is sure: even today at the age of 89 and seven-eighths, my Gampy still has a zest for living. Most of you, I am sure, have seen his crazy socks. They come in all colors and patterns. More recently, there is even a YouTube video of him rapping to an MC Hammer song that Jimmy Fallon put together. Even if my grandfather is not quite sure what a “home boy” is, he loves that video!

It’s not hard to imagine how President Kennedy, with his love of skinny ties and passion for life, would have shown much the same style and panache had he been given the blessing of old age.

Of course, we are here to recognize and celebrate a singular act of political courage nearly a quarter century ago when our politics and our world were very different. I went back and looked at the circumstances surrounding the 1990 budget deal, and was struck by the many challenges we were facing at that point in history.

That fall, my grandfather had sent half a million troops half-way around the world to defend tiny Kuwait from a lawless and brutal invasion.

Meanwhile, he was also helping to engineer the reunification of Germany that October – and manage democratic reforms throughout Central and Eastern Europe in ways that eventually led to the peaceful end of the Cold War.

On top of that, he was also the second President elected to serve a full term in office without party control in either the Senate or the House. That made progress, any progress, on the domestic front that much tougher to achieve.

Candidly speaking, my grandfather didn’t want to raise taxes in 1990, but in our constitutional system of governance Congress also gets a say – and besides that, he felt he owed the American people action and results. Compromise is a dirty word in Washington today, because we live in the age of the perpetual campaign. But once we get back to realizing the importance of actual governance, I suspect this too will pass.

While I am at it, my grandfather wishes to join you in recognizing Mayor Bridges and congratulating him for his much-deserved recognition this year. The fact is we need more political leadership and courage at all levels of government, and we can all hope Mayor Bridges’ personal example of standing on principle will inspire more elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

Not lost on anyone, I suspect, is the symbolism of a grandson of a much-admired President of the United States conferring a prestigious award that is being accepted by the granddaughter of another President. Perhaps the fact that we are brought together in this way, and on this day, to celebrate the ideals of public service with honor perhaps, just maybe that the torch is once again being passed. Not from family to family, but from generation to generation.

There is so much need in our world. There is so much hurt. It’s going to take all of us to meet these challenges head on, but fortunately we have leaders like John Kennedy, George and Barbara Bush (I would be in big trouble if I didn’t include her!) and Paul Bridges to inspire us and help lead us forward.

So on behalf of my Gampy, George H.W. Bush, and our entire family, I thank you again!