Heritage

A Brief History of George W. Bush and Michelle Obama's Friendship

The unlikely pair have shared several heart-warming moments through the years.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / SAUL LOEB
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Though they may seem like an unlikely pair, former First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush have a heart-warming history of chumminess—one that was on subtle yet undeniable display at the funeral service for Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush.

As the younger Bush greeted the current and former presidents and first ladies in Washington's National Cathedral, he took a few moments to share a playful moment with Obama, taking a piece of candy out of his pocket and giving it to her.

The seemingly innocuous move was almost certainly a nod to the unintentional notoriety the two former residents of the White gained earlier this year when they shared a similar moment at the memorial for the late Senator John McCain.

During that service, the pair of friends accidentally stole the spotlight as Bush offered Mrs. Obama something from former First Lady Laura Bush (initially reported to be a piece of candy, but Bush spokesman Freddy Ford later confirmed that it was, in fact, a cough drop) for which she quietly thanked him. It was a sweet, simple moment that seemed to typify the theme of unity that McCain had designed into his service, and certainly not one that either had expected to garner so much attention. 

"It was a simple gesture," Obama said in an interview with Today in October. Noticing Bush getting a cough drop from his wife she, asked for one for herself, never expecting that the moment would go viral. "I will add, they were old cough drops," she said, noting the White House emblem on the box. "I said, 'How long have you had these things?' He said, 'A long time; we've got a lot of these.'"

Considering that Bush noted his father's affection for jokes in his eulogy for the 41st president ("He loved to laugh, especially at himself," Bush said. "He placed great value on a good joke.") the tiny nod to Obama and Bush's shared history seems like exactly the sort of thing the late president would have approved of.

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Former President George W. Bush spoke with First Lady Michelle Obama during an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights marches in March 2015.

Though Obama and Bush have made headlines several times this year for having fun together, they're hardly new to putting their friendly feelings on display.

"President Bush and I, we are forever seatmates because of protocol, and that's how we sit at all the official functions," Obama told Today. "He's my partner in crime at every major thing where all the 'formers' gather. So we're together all the time." She later added, "I love him to death. He's a wonderful man, he's a funny man."

At the 2015 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, the two were seen talking to another and laughing on stage, not the last time they've been seen joking with one another.

“She kind of likes my sense of humor. Anybody who likes my sense of humor, I immediately like,” Bush told People of their unconventional friendship, adding, “I needle her a little bit and around her, I’m fairly lighthearted. [The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other.”


Former President George W. Bush greeted then-First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at the Interfaith Memorial honoring the Dallas shooting victims in July 2016.

Likewise, at the interfaith memorial service for the victims of the Dallas police shooting Bush greeted Obama with a kiss on the cheek and they swung their joined hands in time with the music. Their moment of camaraderie came at a moment of high political tension, yet the duo's ability to look past party lines and see the humanity behind the politics served as an inspiration to many.

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugged former President George W. Bush at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in September 2016

Later that year they would connect once again at opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture where Obama greeted Bush with an immense hug and Bush leaned his head into her like the closest of friends.

"Party doesn't separate us, color, gender, those kinds of things don't separate us," Obama said of their friendship and the message it sends. "If we're the adults and the leaders in the room and we're not showing that level of decency, we cannot expect our children to do the same ... I think about the next generation, every single time."

Though they differ on many political issues, there are also a number of causes that they're united on. Bush has spent a great deal of time since his exit from the White House working to provide for the needs of veterans with wellness and employment programs though the George W. Bush Presidential Center—a program not dissimilar to that of the Joining Forces initiative that Obama championed as First Lady. Likewise, both George W. and Laura Bush have been longtime supporters of children's education and leadership programs, as has Obama, who made education and empowerment one of her chief causes both during and after her husband's term in office.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Lauren Hubbard
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