Former U.S. President George W. Bush was a little-noticed visitor to Stanford University last week.
About 30 students were invited to a session on Monday, May 5, but were not told they were meeting Bush until the 43rd president walked into the room.
Bush was joined in a panel discussion by Condoleezza Rice, his former secretary of state and national security advisor, and Stanford President John Hennessy. Law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, who directs Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, moderated the conversation.
Though the substance of Bush's remarks were off the record, the former president touched on many of the defining moments of his presidency, including his military strategies following September 11, 2001, according to a report by Adam Gorlick, communications manager for the Freeman Spogli Institute. Though Gorlick described Bush as relaxed and sometimes self-deprecating, he reported that the former president grew more serious when discussing Sept. 11, his commitment to addressing Africa's HIV/AIDS pandemic and what he described as a universal desire for freedom.
Bush also touched on immigration reform, education policies and the Edward Snowden leaks.
"I suspect he misses this sort of engagement," second-year law student Gregory Schweizer told Gorlick. "The media always portrays him as being disengaged from current affairs but I'm impressed with how interested and engaged he still is."
Cuellar said, "On this occasion we wanted our students to have an opportunity for a candid conversation with one of the key policymakers of the early 21st century and we think such experiences will further prepare them for leadership in a complex world."
The visit was arranged with the help of former Stanford trustee Brad Freeman and current trustee Ronald Spogli, both longtime friends of Bush. Freeman and Spogli also are philanthropists who in 2005 donated the "naming gift" to the Freeman Spogli Institute. Bush appointed Spogli ambassador to Italy in 2005. Spogli also served as ambassador to San Marino.