10 Questions for George H.W. Bush

Former President George H.W. Bush on volunteerism, political bickering and his plans to go skydiving at age 90

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    Have you seen a shift in the past 20 years in the public's attitude toward service?

    I think so. I hope so. Many schools include a service project as part of their curriculum, and many corporations have in-house projects for their employees or give them time off to do volunteer work. There's a greater understanding about the importance of giving back.

    Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush recently feted you for making volunteerism important. What was that like?

    First, it was a lot of fun to be together when it wasn't a funeral. Since I'm the oldest of the formers, that was especially exciting for me. I was honored that they all came — and they came not for me but for the cause. Jimmy, Bill and, of course, George W. all feel strongly about service.

    Is there something that only Presidents can understand about being President?

    Like any job, you have to be in it before you can fully understand and appreciate it. So right now there are only five of us who understand what it means to be Commander in Chief. No matter the politics, there is a mutual respect and understanding among us that is hard to explain.

    You used to say, "The American people didn't send us here to bicker." Why can't the two parties compromise anymore?

    Everybody does seem a little more entrenched these days. But if you read David McCullough's great biographies of Washington or Adams, you find out they were pretty entrenched then too. People forget that Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had a shoot-out over policy differences. I think the 24-hour news cycle has helped exaggerate the differences between the parties. You can always find someone on TV somewhere carping about something. That didn't happen 20 years ago.

    What do you make of the changes in the Middle East?

    For 18 years I have resisted talking about current events. I am not going to start now.

    You and President Clinton raised $130 million for Katrina victims. What's next for the two men Barbara Bush called the "odd couple"?

    When Bill and I teamed up to help the victims of Hurricane Ike, I told him it was probably time for me to get out of the disaster business. So when the Haiti earthquake happened, I was very pleased to see Bill and George W. team up. I still want to help in small ways, but disaster relief takes the kind of energy I just don't have anymore.

    How is the Silver Fox, by the way?

    She's great. She is the Energizer Bunny and never sits still and still has a lot of opinions.

    How are you feeling? Are you done jumping out of airplanes?

    I have a form of Parkinson's disease, which I don't like. My legs don't move when my brain tells them to. It's very frustrating. But I am in no pain, and I have discovered the amazing scooters, which Barbara accuses me of driving like I drive my boat. But they help me get around. I'm not sure about jumping. I announced I was going to jump when I turned 90. I have three more years to decide. My legs' not working properly might be a deterrent.

    Seriously, who's the better golfer: 41, 42 or 43?

    I am going with my son. He gave up golf while he was President, but his game has really come back. He's tearing up the courses in Texas.

    What advice did you give George W. Bush about life after the White House?

    Make the coffee in the morning, and don't forget it's your job to take the garbage out now.