We engaged the world in 2017. We convened important government, corporate, and nonprofit stakeholders. In Washington, D.C., at our Stand-To: National Veterans Convening, we advanced the well-being of veterans as they transition to civilian life. At our Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In the World forum in New York City, President and Mrs. Bush delivered powerful messages to reassert the values of freedom and democracy. Africa was also on the docket as President and Mrs. Bush traveled to Botswana and Namibia, where they highlighted our work with first ladies and the fight against cervical cancer. At home, through our Engage series, we delivered thought-provoking programming that informed and entertained sold-out audiences.
We supported President Bush's lifelong example of principled leadership, and we aim to be the go-to experts for leadership development. In 2017, we graduated the third class of world changers making their way through our Presidential Leadership Scholars program. We worked with our third class of young leaders in Burma, who work tirelessly to help their country transition from military to democratic rule. Our Team 43 veterans group gathered at President Bush's Portraits of Courage art exhibit throughout the year to help lead awareness of the importance of a healthy transition to civilian life for all veterans.
We advanced policy. Our Bush Institute teams engaged policymakers and thought leaders across the nation to address issues of North American trade and responsible immigration policy.
We advanced important work on accountability in K–12 education. We were also an important voice for advancing the human rights of women in Afghanistan and those neglected in North Korea.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the combination of a dedicated team of selfless professionals and the philanthropic support of so many who have invested in our work. My promise is to ensure that we are responsible stewards of those investments and that we are impactful and relevant in ways only a Presidential Center can be.
We look forward to continuing our venture, making an impact here and abroad.
Thank you so much for your support and engagement with our work.
Kenneth A. Hersh
"When I was told I could no longer be a Special Forces Green Beret, I felt lost and alone," said Rod. "I knew I was a father, husband, friend, and son, but that's not how service members identify themselves. I fell into a hole of isolation." Rod took up sports as a way to recover and rehabilitate, and found that physical activities such as mountain biking, helped him regain his strength and endurance and reconnect with his family.
Today, Rod is an active member of Team 43, a role model to his veteran peers, and a member of the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative Advisory Council. He was a keynote speaker at the Bush Institute's 2017 Stand-To event in Washington, D.C. Rod and his wife, First Sergeant Kelly Rodriguez, U.S. Army, Ret., rode in the 2017 Warrior 100K and sat down with President Bush for a special 2017 Veterans Day conversation to discuss the invisible wounds of war.
Rod is also featured on the cover of Portraits of Courage, in which President Bush writes, "I'm proud of the friendship Rod and I have forged, of his service to my Institute's Military Service Initiative Advisory Council, and of his courageous contributions to our country and the world."
Htet Htet Oo has focused her Liberty and Leadership Program personal leadership project on helping children obtain vocational training for jobs that are safe, pay higher wages, and provide access to healthcare, education, and upward mobility. She currently pays for the whole project out of pocket—about $200 per participant—which is more than three times Burma's monthly minimum wage.
Htet Htet Oo's greatest challenge is obtaining parental approval, as families living in desperate poverty rely on their children's income and are reluctant to let them stop working to attend training. She said the negotiation skills she learned in the Liberty and Leadership Program have been particularly valuable in these situations.
With Htet Htet Oo's assistance, two children have completed their training and are successfully employed as nursing assistants, and three more are currently enrolled in training. Her goal is to help children obtain the necessary training to find better job opportunities, and to expand her work in the future.
"To me, helping others be successful is a way of achieving my own success."
"I really threw myself into Girl Rising almost flying blind," Gordon said." What PLS allowed me to do was turn on the lights and have a map for how you lead change."
In the fall of 2017, Gordon accepted a role as Chief Impact Officer for Participant Media, an entertainment company that produces films, television, and digital content centered around social change. Participant Media is behind popular films like Lincoln and The Help. Gordon creates campaign strategies to ensure viewers have the opportunity to take action.
"I've landed in a job where I am working on some of the most important social issues of our time," she said. "Whether it be fighting on behalf of the environment, the education system, or our upcoming film on the foster care system, with PLS I have this extraordinary network of experts and community leaders with whom I can connect to get advice, introductions, and partnerships to drive measurable change across the country and the world. In my job at Participant Media, where I'm working on a whole spectrum of issues and trying to make change, the PLS Rolodex is on my speed dial."
The Bush Center engages communities in the United States and around the world by developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today’s most pressing challenges. At the Bush Institute, we seek to produce relevant scholarship, advance our thought leadership, drive policy change, and develop leaders.
In 2017, the Bush Institute published more than 95 op-eds in news outlets including The Washington Post, USA Today, Foreign Policy, The Hill, Newsday, Huffington Post, and others, and was featured in major news outlets including CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
Relying on the expertise of Bush Institute directors and initiatives, we released a series of policy recommendations for Congress and the Administration on trade, veteran transition, education, North Korea, and global health.
Based on the Bush Institute's policy recommendations on North American competitiveness, we led a partnership to improve workforce training for frontline manufacturing workers. This will provide a more mobile, well-trained workforce across North America.
In November, Mrs. Bush participated in a joint Congressional Briefing with First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani and members of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, leading to increased attention from members of Congress on the advances Afghan girls and women have made, and the need for continued support from the U.S. government.
The Bush Institute measured results from the more than 300 participants to date of our three leadership programs—Presidential Leadership Scholars, the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, and the Liberty and Leadership Program: