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06.11.09

Happy Birthday, Dad

On George H.W. Bush's 85th birthday-which he celebrated Friday by skydiving-former President George W. Bush shares a personal written tribute from son to father, 43 to 41.

On George H.W. Bush's 85th birthdaywhich celebrated Friday by skydivingformer President George W. Bush shares a personal written tribute from son to father, 43 to 41.

Exactly 10 years ago, coinciding with former president George H.W. Bush’s 75th birthday, a Texas governor named George W. Bush wrote an essay entitled “The First Son,” about his then more-famous father, for the men’s magazine P.O.V. Re-reading his tribute this week, unseen and not findable for the past decade, in anticipation of Bush 41’s birthday today, Bush 43 told The Daily Beast: “I wouldn’t change a word.”

I've lived with being "George Bush's son" all my life. Growing up, I probably didn't want to be like him. Today it's ironic that much of my career parallels his. He went to Yale. I went to Yale. He was a Navy pilot. I flew F-102s in the Texas Air National Guard. Now that I'm in political life, I like to say I've inherited half of his friends and all of his enemies. Of course, there will be some who will prejudge me, but that's OK: I don't expect to get all of the votes anyway. Being George Bush's son is a tremendous plus.

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The greatest gift that my dad has given me has been unconditional love. He loves me when times are good and he loves me when times are bad. He loves me when I've been successful and he loves me when I've failed. Take the 1994 campaign for governor, which no one thought I could win. I fought an uphill battle, but I had such a sense of security due to love that I was willing to take the risk. Because I feared neither failure nor success.

That love and confidence has always been there. (Even though, as the first of five kids, I tested my parents' patience more than once.) Growing up in Midland, Texas, I can remember clearly my dad saying, "Son, I can play catch with you now and throw the ball as hard as I can and you can catch it." There was a certain rite of passage when I could catch with my dad and he didn't have to hold back.

Dad loves the outdoors. He often took me fishing when I was a kid. We'd go fishing for bluefish off the coast of Maine. I learned the skills of fishing from listening to him, and the joy of fishing from watching him. Dad's a good hunter, too, and one Christmas he gave me a shotgun, a .410. I would go with him to Louisiana to shoot ducks. Those are fond memories.

I wouldn’t have gone into politics had I not seen a man with his integrity intact go into the system and come out with that integrity still intact.

Today, bass fishing and speed golf are some of our favorite things to do together. (The most memorable place we played golf has been Augusta National, which was magnificent.) We also played a lot of horseshoes when he was president and when he was vice president, both a Camp David and at our house in Kennebunkport. Jim Nantz, Fred Couples, and Dad and I had a wonderful match one time.

The moment I was proudest of my dad was sitting there watching him be sworn in as the president of the United States. My mother, holding the Bible, my dad, holding her hand and over his shoulder was Washington, D.C. The Mall, the crowds of people: It was a very powerful moment.

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George W. Bush talks to his father as he sits at his desk in the Oval Office for the first time on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2001. (AP Photo)

I wouldn't have gone into politics had I not seen a man with his integrity intact go into the system and come out with that integrity still intact. He's kind, thoughtful, generous, with a keen intellect and an enormous energy level. We share the same values: hard work, honesty, respect for others, the desire to do well, the love of family. I've learned them all from him.

My dad and I continue to have an honest relationship, very straightforward. I considered him a mentor, not only as a young lad but also as an adult. And he's still a mentor today. I occasionally talk to him about policy matters. He has great judgment. I'm George Bush's son—and I think the world of him.

George W. Bush served as the 43rd president of the U.S. from 2001 to 2009.