Bush discussed "Faith in the Office" during the event, which raised nearly $400,000 for the University of Mobile scholarship fund.
The former president praised the Baptist university, saying, "I love what the University of Mobile stands for. I love the concept of educating people with the skills and capacity to influence America. Congratulations on this mission that is important for America. I am proud to be a part of supporting the university as well."
Bush recounted that he was "in the Bible every morning of my presidency." The prayers of total strangers "comforted us and strengthened me in ways you'll never know. For those of you who prayed for me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that beautiful gift."
Bush spoke of his admiration for President Lincoln, who had a vision for the country and stood firm on the principle that all men are created equal under God.
For him, Bush said what mattered in leaving office after the 2008 election, moving back to Texas and looking in the mirror: "Did I see a guy who refused to compromise his soul in the face of political pressure."
Bush's memoir, titled "Decision Points," will be released Nov. 9. His speech, attended by 1,000-plus people in Mobile, offered a preview of the book and an inside look at the pressures of the presidency.
Bush related his response when longtime friends asked him what it was like to be president of the United States. In simple terms, he said, "This job requires a lot of decision-making. Some you anticipate, some you don't. And you don't have any choice. You get to decide."
He added, "There are some great times as president and some tough times as president. Every moment I was optimistic that this great nation can achieve anything it sets its mind to."
Presidents will come and go, and all will have weaknesses and strengths, Bush said, but the ship of state will sail on.
"My job isn't just to make decisions, but to strengthen the institution by bringing honor and glory to the office, which I tried to do for eight years as your president," Bush said.
University of Mobile President Mark Foley presented Bush with a handcrafted Bowie knife created by Foley and Mobile physician Bill Dumas. The work in steel, brass and wood, inspired by Alamo defender James Bowie, is engraved with words President Bush spoke on 9/11: "Freedom will be defended." Foley created the brass and steel blade and Dumas carved the handle from African zebra wood.
The banquet raises support for the university's academic scholarship fund while bringing a speaker of national prominence to the Mobile area. Previous speakers have included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Georgia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The event also highlighted the university's initiative to help transform America by strengthening Christian faith and character in all areas of public and private life via its "Twelve23 Movement," in which individuals are invited to sign a Twelve23 Contract at www.twelve23.org and pledge to pray and actively work toward a national spiritual and cultural transformation that recognizes and honors God.*
The Oct. 7 leadership banquet at the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center in downtown Mobile included performances by students in the university's Center for Performing Arts, including the Voices of Mobile vocal ensemble, a trumpet fanfare by members of RamCorps drum and bugle corps and a performance by the Shophar men's vocal group.
The University of Mobile (www.umobile.edu) is a Baptist-affiliated university founded in 1961, now with 1,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students at an 880-acre campus in north Mobile County.
Kathy Dean is director of media relations at the University of Mobile. For further information about the university's Twelve23 Movement, see Baptist Press story, "Prayer thrust launched by Baptist univ.," http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33608.
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