Visiting the Phillips Academy campus last weekend to lead the celebration of the school’s 225th/175th Anniversary and to close Campaign Andover symbolically, former United States President George H.W. Bush ’42 delivered a speech on Saturday afternoon as part of the celebration in the Cochran Chapel and attended a dinner with members of the Board of Trustees and faculty later that evening. Mr. Bush reflected on the importance of his role as part of the Campaign, noting, “Being able to support the drive [Campaign Andover] in some way meant a lot to me. I got a lot out of my education, and you always want to give back, though you can never thank people adequately.” As Honorary Chairman, Mr. Bush helped Campaign Andover to become the most successful fundraising initiative in independent school history, which raised $208.9 million in donations. In his speech to members of the Academy community, Mr. Bush explained that the significance of his Andover experience was invaluable to his success in later life. He later elaborated, “[PA] had a great impact on my life. When I graduated, I went right into the service, and it stood me in good stead from the moment I got into the Navy.” Mr. Bush also deemed the time that he spent on Andover Hill as more beneficial to his character than were his college years at Yale University. Attributing such a fact largely to the close relationships he formed with Andover faculty and students, Mr. Bush noted, “You make friends [at Andover] that will stay with you your whole life. The friendships I made and the morals which were inculcated in me helped me greatly throughout my life, especially as President.” President Bush later spoke about his gratitude towards Phillips Academy not only for providing him with a priceless education, but also for instilling hope within him for the future of America. “I have no doubt that the best days of our country are ahead,” he said. “…Part of that is because of what is going on right here at Andover, an institution where excellence is sought and sound values are inculcated.” While politics and foreign policy represented only a small part of his speech, Mr. Bush alluded briefly to the dire situation in the Middle East, where allegedly corrupt Muslim regimes use their school systems to spread false religious propaganda. He cautioned, “Education can be distorted in schools. Young minds are poisoned, and a legacy of hate is being passed on. We can be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution, and what goes on here at Phillips Academy is a part of the solution.” Mr. Bush concluded his speech by warning students not to take their Andover education for granted, stating, “You’ll never know until later on what you’ve gained from this great institution.” Although Mr. Bush’s visit to the Academy for the celebration was relatively short, he admitted, “It is just fun whenever I come back. You get memories. There is something vibrant about seeing the students and their faces.” A week prior to Mr. Bush’s visit to Andover, the Secret Service prepared the campus, directing students living in the Day, Bartlet, and Foxcroft Hall dormitories, which are along the processional route, to keep their windows shut. Upon arriving at the Academy, Mr. Bush’s entourage featured a full retinue of uniform and non-uniform Secret Service Agents, as well as officers from the Andover Police Department and the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) Canine division. Because of the intensified political situation in the Middle East, officials at the Academy were advised to enact tighter security measures. Manager of Public Safety Tom Conlon stated, “The security was more intense than his previous visits as a former President.” According to Mr. Conlon, the only time that more security was required on campus was when Bush visited during his presidency, in 1989. Mr. Conlon commended faculty and students for their “tremendous cooperation” with preparations for Mr. Bush’s visit, stating, “Everything went according to the plan.” The Cochran Chapel celebration also featured speeches by President of the Board of Trustees and Chair of Campaign Andover David Underwood ’54, Head of School Barbara Landis Chase, and Instructor in English and former Chair of the Abbot Academy English Department Jean St. Pierre. Ms. St. Pierre, the most senior member of the PA faculty, spoke on the past of Phillips and Abbot. Borrowing a line from Shakespeare, she posed the question, “How do we dream the dream and sing the song of the imagination?” Ms. St. Pierre acknowledged that Andover was working toward this goal by searching for the delicate balance between goodness and knowledge and constantly redefining its motto of attracting “youth from every quarter.” Mr. Underwood, who was honored with the Claude Moore Fuess Award for public service on Friday, spoke about both the Academy’s present state and the success of Campaign Andover. “Those of us who love this school think it is eternal, that it will always be open to bright youngsters,” he said. “I believe that Andover is eternal, not because it is destined to be so, but because those who love it step forward to provide what it needs.” Mr. Underwood then thanked his fellow Trustees and everyone who had participated in Campaign Andover, concluding, “In our time, in our present, we have done what is necessary to sustain Sam [Phillips’s] dream. Congratulations to Sam and congratulations to us.” Mrs. Chase then spoke about the future of the Academy, stating, “As I look toward the future, I feel heartened.” She continued, “Andover has great potential, the potential to renew itself to serve the needs of students facing the world…this is a tall order and one in which we must constantly evaluate our performance.”
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