Former U.S. President George W. Bush paid a little-noticed visit 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.
Joining Bush in a panel discussion were 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 investment partners Brad Freeman, a former Stanford trustee, and Ronald Spogli, a current Stanford trustee. Both men are longtime friends of Bush. Bush appointed Spogli ambassador to Italy in 2005. Spogli also served as ambassador to San Marino.
In 2005, Freeman and Spogli together donated $50 million to Stanford, in recognition for which the university renamed its Stanford Institute for International Studies the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.