Witness to Dignity: The Life and Faith of George H.W. and Barbara Bush (Hardcover)
“Reverend Levenson was a dear friend and spiritual mentor to both my beloved grandparents. His stories of friendship will fill you with hope and inspire grace.”―Jenna Bush Hager, Co-Host, NBC News’ TODAY with Hoda & JennaThis is the untold, intimate, and eye-witness account of the character, integrity, service, faith, and dignity of former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush by their priest, pastor, and friend.
George and Barbara Bush belonged to and were active members of a Houston church for more than 50 years. The rector of that church, Reverend Russell Jones Levenson, Jr., believes he was invited into private moments with these public individuals so he could serve as a witness: a witness to observe, and a witness to tell.
With never-before shared correspondence, experiences, and personal stories, Levenson offers new insight into the Bushes’ wit and wisdom; their commitment to family and friends; their tireless desire to bless the lives of others; and their steadfast loyalty to their church, their faith, and their God. Before embarking on writing this book on faith, Levenson sought and received the blessing of all the Bush children, including the 43rd president.
Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired as Levenson ponders how and why he was put in this unique pastoral position, asking questions like, “What on earth was I doing reading the sports section of the paper with the forty-first president, his cabinet member Brent Scowcroft, and a Chinese official on a breezy morning at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, Maine?”
Levenson writes with emotion about being with President Bush and Barbara Bush as they each took their last breaths on this earth. He then describes in full detail the surreal experience of planning a state funeral and giving a eulogy with other presidents in the front row.
This is book is for readers who yearn for our public officials to serve with faith and integrity like the Bushes. But above all else, this book shows how powerful it is when world leaders are humbled before the power that rests above all powers.
About the Author
The Reverend Russell J. Levenson, Jr. lives in Houston, Texas, where he has served as Rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church since 2007. With nearly 10,000 members, St. Martin’s is the largest Episcopal Church in North America. Levenson co-officiated and offered a homily at the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush in Washington, D.C. and in Houston. He also officiated and preached at the funeral for First Lady Barbara Bush in Houston. Levenson has been ordained for 30 years and is the author of several devotional books.
“Reverend Levenson was a dear friend and spiritual mentor to both my beloved grandparents. His stories of friendship will fill you with hope and inspire grace.”—Jenna Bush Hager, Co-Host, NBC News’ TODAY with Hoda & Jenna
"I had the pleasure of knowing President George H.W. Bush and the wonderful former first lady Barbara Bush. But nowhere near as well as my friend Reverend Dr Russell Levenson. In reading Witness to Dignity, I know you will enjoy getting to know them through the eyes and heart of their devoted pastor and friend.”—Gary Sinise, Actor and Chairman of the Gary Sinise Foundation
"We can never adequately thank Russ for his tireless efforts to minister to our parents when they needed it – and him – most. He was so incredibly generous with his time, and compassion, and as you will discover in the pages that follow he came to have a very close and special relationship with my parents."—Jeb Bush, Second Son of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, 43rd Governor of Florida
"Congratulations to my friend Russ Levenson. He has captured a compelling story of faith, family, love, and leadership. Because of his unique relationship with President George and First Lady Barbara Bush, he can describe the principles and priorities which defined their lives. Readers will be informed and inspired. Thank you, Russ!"—Max Lucado, Minister, Oak Hills Church, San Antonio
"For George and Barbara Bush, action spoke louder than words. And so, they preferred doing the Lord’s work more than talking about the Lord’s work. That quality was an integral part of the couple’s shared goal to 'make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.' Russ Levenson has eloquently captured the essence and dignity of these two beautiful human beings who remain role models of character, decency, and integrity."—The Honorable James A. Baker, III., 61st Secretary of State, 10th and 16th White House Chief of Staff
"Russ Levenson’s Witness to Dignity is a beautiful tribute to God and the faith of George H. W. and Barbara Bush that sustained them during their lives. Through their abiding love for one another, they inspired everyone in their orbit to strive for a life of purpose that would lead to success, while also keeping us humble, service-oriented, and joyous. They shared so much of themselves with the world, and now Witness to Dignity helps us better understand how to conduct ourselves in the same gracious ways. This book is one to keep handy through the good and bad times--a lovely reminder of a couple so admired for how they lived life to the fullest and trusted in God to show them the way."—Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary to President George W. Bush and a Fox News anchor and co-host
"Much has been written about the 41st President and First Lady. What makes this book unique and profoundly moving is Levenson’s unapologetically personal account, as if we have been invited to sit at the family table and catch a glimpse of their deep love and abiding faith."—The Most Right Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States and author of Love is the Way and The Power of Love
"All who knew GHW Bush, or covered his presidency as I did, knew he was a man of faith. But few understood how faithful he was and how central it was to his life and character. This impressive book by his longtime pastor and friend Russ Levenson is the story of President Bush as a Christian. It is a fascinating read and an important contribution to the literature of our 41st president."—Brit Hume, Senior Political Analysist, Fox News
“To whom much is given, the scriptures teach us, much is expected, and George and Barbara Bush always sought to keep this injunction in mind. They were not perfect, but as Russell Levenson’s personal and pastoral memoir tells us, they strove to be faithful people of God. Which is, when you think about it, am illuminating lesson for the rest of us.”—Jon Meacham, Canon Historian for Washington National Cathedral, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Historian
“Why did so many come to admire, even love, George H.W. and Barbara Bush during their years after the White House and the trappings of power? Perhaps it’s because of the character, integrity, and service they displayed, living their Christian faith with humility and reverence and thereby becoming exemplars for us all. Russ Levenson witnessed their final decades: in this warm and personal volume, he shares the closing chapters of these two extraordinary Americans.”—Karl Rove, Former Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush, Wall Street Journal Columnist and Fox News Commentator
“It was truly an honor and privilege to work side by side with our 41st president. Like Russ Levenson, I too was blessed to be a “witness to dignity.” As Americans we are searching for the values that made this country great. George and Barbara Bush lived a life of grace, honor, determination, and doing what is best for their country. Russ has a unique perspective to this wonderful and respected couple who served our country for decades. This book captures the real personalities of the Bushes and reveals some untold vignettes which makes this book a must read.”—The Honorable Dan Quayle, 44th Vice President of the United States
"First, he brings you close enough to feel you know them as he did. And then, when Russ Levenson begins to move from a friendly account of the last years in the lives of First Lady Barbara and President George Bush, to the story of their passing, the heft and scale of his account of their character and convictions starts to show. As this book tells it, their generous living and dying, the courage, strength, hope, and lightness of heart they brought to them, had church and faith at their core. When all that comes together at the honoring of their passing, in scripture, hymns, and preaching, given structure by the beauty and wise order of service of the Book of Common Prayer, you’ll be able to hear the trumpets."—Sam Waterston, Actor, Producer, Writer and Humanitarian
"Take it from a Catholic, this gifted Episcopalian Reverend knows how to inspire, and in reflecting on the lives of George and Barbara Bush, he knows what 'inspiring' is as well. It’s not about who you are or what religion you are or whether you subscribe to any religion at all, it’s about how you conduct your life. It’s not what you 'show off' to the world but what you quietly 'show' the world. There is a great humility and dignity to the entire Bush family, and I clearly see where it starts, and where it remains. Such dignity is rare. Sharing it with someone like my friend, the Reverend Russ Levenson, is rarer still. That’s what makes this book so compelling. We get to see a side of an incredible family few really know from the vantage point of a wonderful man of God whose uplifting words we all need to hear. It says a lot about a former President and his wife. I think it says a lot as well about the person they let enter that world and share their remarkable journey."—Neil Cavuto, Senior Vice President, Managing Editor, Your World with Neil Cavuto and Cavuto Live, Fox News, Cavuto: Coast to Coast on sister channel Fox Business Network
"Russ Levenson’s moving memoir of George and Barbara Bush vividly recounts how blessed we were to have people of faith in the White House who worked for the greater good of their country, their community, and their church. While this wonderful remembrance draws our eyes back to what we lost with their passing, the lives of George and Barbara Bush celebrated through the words of Russell Levenson remind us of what we can be yet again."—Joe Scarborough, former congressman and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”
"Witness to Dignity is a beautifully written look into the spiritual lives of President George HW Bush and his beloved wife of 72 years, First Lady Barbara Bush. Through various visits in both Houston and Kennebunkport, Russ Levenson recalls -- in remarkable detail -- over ten years of service to and friendship with the couple. Along the way, Levenson answers his own lingering question of why he was brought into their lives: to bear witness to their shared faith, generosity, love of being with other people, and dignity."—Bianna Golodryga, CNN, Anchor and Senior Global Affairs Analyst
“The motto of the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush is: service, grit, humility, and resilience. Russ Levenson saw first-hand these qualities in both President and Barbara Bush. Equally important, he witnessed their quiet, unfailing faith, love, and abiding dignity and integrity. Witness to Dignity is lovingly written and a gift to every reader.”—The Honorable John Dalton, 70th United States Secretary of The Navy under President Bill Clinton
"Through this window into the souls of George and Barbara Bush, Russell Levenson presents a timely vision of public service as more than an array of policies and a parade of events. At its best, it can be a model of kindness and decency for a nation to follow."—The Honorable John C. Danforth, 24th United States Ambassador to the United Nations, United States Senator from Missouri, (retired) and Officiant and Preacher, State Funeral for President Ronald W. Reagan
"Highlighting stories of Barbara Bush and the 41st President, this work beautifully exhibits human dignity derived from faith. Each had holy moments, building spiritual treasure, stored in their soul, wealth beyond measure, precious as gold. Inner power and guidance with Christ as the source, used for life's journey with an eternal course. A witness of 'humbling self,' 'surrendering judgment,' 'loving God and one's neighbor as self,' seeking 'a more excellent way,' all void of any pious overlay. Theirs was a life well lived, the result of which was the Christian promise of earth's greatest joy."—The Rt. Rev. Claude E. Payne, 2nd Rector of St. Martin's, Houston and VII Bishop of Texas, Retired
"Moving, deeply personal, written with humor and humility, Russ Levenson's book Witness to Dignity captures the faith and family values of George H.W. and Barbara Bush in a way that will inspire the reader regardless of their personal beliefs or political leanings. A remarkable addition to the legacy of our 41st President."—Admiral William H. McRaven, USN (Retired), 9th Commander of the United States Special Operations Command and 11th Chancellor of the University of Texas
"British admirers of George HW and Barbara Bush will be thrilled with Russ Levenson’s tribute. Without question he was one of the outstanding Presidents of the 20th century, and will be long admired for his integrity, humanity, and decency rooted in an unswerving faith and loving marriage. Russ has given us a spiritual journal, rather than a biography, with important insights into how George HW Bush’s faith was such an integral part of his great life."—The Most Right Honourable Dr. George L. Carey, 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991-2002
"Few clergy in this country have been honored to be pastors to current and former Presidents of the United States and their wives. I was blessed in that capacity by my relationship with Gerald R. Ford and his wife Betty. As I read Witness to Dignity by my friend Russ Levenson I was moved in many ways – by the memories of my time with President and Mrs. Ford; by the depth of love and devotion shared between George and Barbara Bush and Russ and Laura Levenson; and by the remarkably bright window into the life of faith exhibited by the Bushes. Russ has written this account in such a way that readers can and should put aside their political or faith affiliation and appreciate the deep Christian faith embraced and exhibited by these two people who loved all sorts and conditions of humans."—The Rev. Dr. Robert Certain; United States Air Force, Colonel, retired; former Prisoner of War, “Hanoi Hilton;” Pastor to President and Mrs. Gerald R. Ford and Author, “Unchained Eagle"
"Barbara Bush’s favorite pink poppies were first coming into bloom in Ganny’s Garden, the lovely space dedicated to her memory, and other gardens throughout the Kennebunkport community when Reverend Russell Levenson’s wonderful new book arrived. To the many who loved Barbara and her devoted husband, President George HW Bush, the flower serves as an annual reminder of their years of leadership, when Walker’s Point was known as the 'Summer White House.' More importantly, it comes as a touching reminder of their years of friendship, when townspeople looked forward to their return to this little village by the sea that they loved so dearly. Nowhere can this part of the Bushes’ lives be better explored than in Witness to Dignity. As the rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where they were active members for over 50 years, Russ Levenson developed a lasting and intimate friendship with President Bush and Barbara. He was with them when their lives were active and full, and with them as they were drawing their final breath. He saw them in good times and bad, and witnessed a depth of character and a faith in their God that was unquestioned and unchanging, one that brought a constant light to their lives, and through them to the lives of countless others. His stories are both insightful and funny. It’s a book to read, enjoy, and learn from. And like the poppies that reveal their beauty in early summer, it’s a book that will reveal to us the beauty of President George HW and Barbara Bush, the importance of faith, and the value of friendships."—Tom Bradbury, Executive Director of Kennebunkport Conservation Trust
"This is an intimate and deeply moving portrait of the Bush family, and particularly George HW and Barbara Bush. I once produced a profile of the 41st president for the TV series Inside the Cold War with David Frost, but Russ’ book truly reveals the inside story of this remarkable couple and the extent to which their lives were informed by their faith."—Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Historian and National Geographic Author
“President and Mrs. Bush were two of the finest people I have ever known. Their profound and abiding faith influenced my own. Witness to Dignity offers a rare glimpse into the ways in which their faith guided and grounded their extraordinary lives.”—The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, Former Deputy Assistant to President George H.W. Bush and Provost, Washington National Cathedral
"Russ Levenson’s...elegant narrative voice in Witness to Dignity is a perfect reflection of the Bush family. I am so grateful for his efforts in capturing these timely stories of this amazing couple."—Amy Grant, Award Winning Recording Artist and 2022 Kennedy Center Honoree
"In Witness to Dignity, through the lives and faith of George and Barbara Bush, Russ Levenson masterfully presents a guidebook for how to live one’s life, how to approach one’s death, and how to sow good will into the nation’s political landscape. A captivating read."—Captain Robert E. Stumpf, US Navy (ret), former Commanding Officer and Flight Leader of the Blue Angels
"Witness to Dignity is an astonishing, moving, powerful book. It is about a Rector caring for parishioners; it is about the Christian hope and the precious power of the Episcopal liturgy when confronting death and grief; and yes, it is about the faith of a President and his First Lady. The spotlight has been cast many times on anyone running for high political office. There are very few secrets that have not been shared with the world. Yet this is a book that truly invites us into a world that a secular press is not really interested in. This book captures a couple seeking to be faithful – seeking to be persons of prayer – seeking to be helpful members of a congregation. It is a book where their faith comes first and their remarkable status in American political life comes second. Countless readers will pick up the book simply because it is about George H.W. and Barbara Bush; and countless readers will put down the book having learned about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."—The Very Reverend Dr. Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary