Community & Government

Crisis Management

George W. Bush

Lesson time 22:45 min

President Bush faced the unimaginable during his time in office. Learn how he dealt with crises that defined his presidency.

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Topics include: President Bush faced crises that were unimaginable when he took office. Learn how he dealt with crises that defined his presidency and remain highly-debated after he left office.


[MUSIC PLAYING] GEORGE W. BUSH: One learns how to deal with a crisis by going through crises. [MUSIC PLAYING] I had been in some crises in Texas-- big tornado, fires, floods. The first responder to the crisis tended to be local people. And whether you're the fire chief or the president on a national crisis, it's really important to project a sense of calm and resolve. If the person responsible for dealing with a crisis gets rattled or nervous, the people detailed to respond to that crisis will tend to be nervous. So leadership in crisis really is sending the right psychological message. The second lesson of a crisis is to say something. I mean, sure, the person may be calm. But if people don't know that person is calm and don't know the facts about a crisis, what's happening, then all of a sudden, people start imagining things. And so if you notice-- you see a local crisis, and the fire chief is speaking, calming your nerves by giving you facts, for example. The third thing which is essential during a crisis is to project a sense of compassion. I think in order to be a compassionate person, it's important to put yourself in their spot. I remember going through fires in Parker County here in Texas. I saw a woman sitting on a doorstep of a burnt-out house, weeping. And I went up and hugged her and just sat there and talked to her. Leaders need to take time to think about the other person and try to help ease pain. I tell people as commander-in-chief that oftentimes, I was comforter-in-chief. After 9/11 and throughout the War on Terror and in the wake of natural disasters, Laura and I spent a lot of time with people who were hurting. That's the nature of leadership. And helping people heal and helping people realize that tomorrow is going to be better than yesterday is part of the job of the leader. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I had known a plane hit the first tower, and I thought it was an accident. We were at the elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. I was there, by the way, to promote good reading programs. And a child's reading and the teacher. I'm observing it all and also very aware of the fact that the small classroom was crammed with news cameras. And Andy whispers to me, a second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack. WOMAN: Oh, my God. GEORGE W. BUSH: My first reaction was, my job's clear. Protect these little children and their families and their country. But the cameras are watching my every move. And therefore, I waited for the proper moment to leave the classroom, thinking about what I just heard. REPORTER: Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of a plane crash in New York? - We'll talk about it later. MAN: Thank you all. You can step out the way we came in. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Got out, made a few phone calls to prepare the federal response that was helping New York City and the state of New York, and prepared a statement. [APPLAUS...

About the Instructor

Step inside the Oval Office with the newest instructor in our White House series, President George W. Bush. With insight from former First Lady Laura Bush, the former commander in chief opens up about the tough calls and life lessons that shaped his career. Develop and own a leadership style that’s true to you and learn to lead by connecting personally with everyone in the room.

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