Former President George W. Bush says is was an amazing experience to watch his father mark his 85th birthday by parachuting out of an airplane.
Former President George W. Bush played messenger for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, delivering a greeting to one of the state's most famous faces.
It's not often that a member of the Bush family sees Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a noted Republican who supported the campaign of the elder Bush, the nation's 41st president.
In front of about 1,600 people at a dinner in Erie, the younger Bush said he had been reminded by his dad to "Give my old buddy my best ... 41 sends his best to No. 1 in the heart of Penn State fans."
The country's 43rd president has made just a few public appearances since leaving office in January, though his speech Wednesday night at a dinner of the Manufacturer & Business Association touched on familiar themes in reviewing his two terms in the White House.
But he started his hour-long appearance by talking about his father, who celebrated his 85th birthday last weekend by parachute-jumping out of an airplane near the elder Bush's home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
"So this weekend I had an amazing experience: I watched an 85-year-old jump out of an airplane, and it wasn't about to crash," Bush said, snickering while the crowd laughed.
Then, comparing his father to Paterno, who's 82, he said, "These are two people who could have easily taken out the Airstream (trailer) and traveled to some camping ground ... but, no, these guys are going to live life to the fullest."
Bush again offered humorous tidbits about life after the White House, often poking fun at himself. He recalled jogging at Presque Isle State Park in Erie with former Gov. Tom Ridge during a previous visit to the region. Ridge went on to become the country's first secretary of homeland security, under Bush.
Bush took questions, which were sent by e-mail to the association and were read by a moderator. The friendly business audience cheered his answer to a question about what could be done to keep the manufacturing sector vibrant.
Manufacturing firms have taken a heavy financial hit during the recession.
Without hesitation, Bush answered low regulations, no frivolous lawsuits and expansion of export markets. He also said there should be more emphasis on research and development tax credits.
Bush demurred when asked who could lead Republicans in the 2012 presidential election, saying he needed to at least wait until next year's midterm elections took place.
"Invite me back; I'll give you my opinion," he said to laughs.
As in other stops, Bush said he would not criticize President Barack Obama.
A Bush spokesman declined comment when asked how much Bush was paid for the appearance.
Thursday night before the Texas Rangers take the field, the owner's suite at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will be renamed the "Presidnet George W. Bush Owner's Suite" in honor of the nation's 43rd president and the team's former managing general partner.