Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came together in North Texas on Thursday night to share wisdom with leadership scholars, but they acted more like two old friends rather than former world leaders with family members fighting for the White House.
They spoke at the Presidential Leadership Scholars graduation at the Bush Center on the SMU campus.
Sixty professionals from all over the country who work with non-profits and in the business and education fields were picked for the program.
The 42nd and 43rd presidents were relaxed and cracking jokes during their talks and only briefly mentioned the upcoming election cycle.
“I know you know some of the folks that are running for president, and so the question is, what are your thoughts on the way they, the candidates, can elevate the discourse?” said moderator Margaret Spellings.
"I know Jeb and I'm confident Secretary Hillary will, you know, elevate the discourse,” said Bush. “I can't attest to their surrogates. I can attest to this surrogate. But I'm not going to be a surrogate."
“…A sort of culture of anger and resentment,” said Clinton. “We’ve got to reside, you know, kind of rise above anger to answers and rise above resentment to a real response.”
One of the graduates of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program included South Dallas native Casey Gerald.
He's the youngest member of the inaugural class and says he had the chance to learn from former cabinet members and the presidents themselves.
“I think that's the core of this program, that we have so much more in common than what tears us apart, and I think that came through, and these presidents and it came through in the people in this program and the lessons we learned along the way.”
Lessons the former presidents continued to offer in their remarks.
“Someday for all of us, it will be our last day, and what will matter with all the steps we took along the way and what we amounted to,” said Clinton. “Not the home run we hit on day X. And, I wish you well.”
“I was stuck on that ‘Someday may be your last day’ line,” said Bush. “I thought that was pretty damn profound.”
The Presidential Leadership Scholars Program is a partnership between the presidential centers of George w. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.
The program started taking applications on Thursday for the next class.