It is never too early to talk about the 2016 presidential election, especially during moments like these where the U.S. has a void in its presidential leadership. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started tweeting this week. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie continues his cozy relationship with President Obama. Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are the hot young tickets in the early primary states.
The stakes are high, and the Republican Party is worried about losing a third consecutive election. However, maybe the answer to recruiting a national leader is right in front of us.
This week, I had the opportunity to work with Governor Jeb Bush in Washington, D.C. Jon Karl at ABC News interviewed the governor for a Father's Day special that will air on Sunday, June 16th. Bush spoke with Jon about the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, immigration reform and about his dad, President George H.W. Bush, who just turned 89 years old.
While I was in the room, it just hit me. If only the American people could witness what we saw. He spoke from the heart about the lessons he learned from his father. He read excerpts from his dad's book, "All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings." At moments, he was emotional and explained how his father taught his children about the importance of public service and humility in leadership. Governor Bush was inspirational and driven with a sense of purpose where he knows that he has so much to give and lead our country. In moments like these where Washington seems so divided and toxic, filled with scandals and chaos, Bush provides a sense of calm and clarity. During the interview, he explained how our leaders could achieve more with greater humility and stressed the importance of building successful coalitions. He shared that in today's world of self-centeredness the job of leader is to rise above himself/herself and focus on serving others.
Bush also addressed the illiteracy crisis in a country where over 35 million adults are unable to read or write, and how his mom's foundation is implementing programs nationwide to help adults and children become literate.
He also talked about immigration reform and the importance of Republicans working with Democrats, being part of the conversation and providing the solution to modernize our immigration system and address illegal immigration. As U.S. News &World Report managing editor Robert Schlesinger reported in his most recent article, Governor Jeb Bush provided a "pretty good talking points blueprint of how to address conservative concerns" during a Bipartisan Policy Center event.
His ability to delve into complex policies and find workable solutions is the type of leadership we desperately need in Washington.
As with every great politician, Bush connects on the personal level with those he meets. Before the interview, a Hispanic hotel worker entered the room and the governor engaged the staff member in Spanish and made the worker feel as if he was the most important person in the room. The governor's more than six foot presence was not intimidating, but instead warm and welcoming. [See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]
His ability to connect and understand the struggles of American families is exactly what the Republicans lacked in their 2008 and 2012 presidential candidates. Bush brings such a depth of knowledge and a wealth of experience, from how to develop and implement policies to how to provide practical solutions to complex issues. He was a common-sense governor in Florida and continues to add to the national debate on a variety of issues.
Bush is also one of the few Republican leaders who could build a winning coalition of moderates, conservatives, Hispanics and independents. He did it in Florida and could repeat it at a national level. He is still considered one of the most popular and most conservative governors in Florida history.
So before anyone decides to disqualify Bush simply because of his last name, they should give him a chance if he decides to run, because sometimes the answer to finding the right leader is the most obvious one. For Republicans in 2016, the answer could well be Governor Jeb Bush.
Corrected 6/14/13: This post misnamed George H.W. Bush’s book. It’s “All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.”