George and Barbara Bush at their home on Walker's Point, Kennebunkport, in 1981.
In 2015, Down East conducted the following written interview with then 91-year-old George H. W. Bush, discussing the former president’s love of Maine and the role that the family’s Kennebunkport home at Walker’s Point has played in the Bushes’ public and private lives. The interview never ran in the magazine. We present it here, alongside photographs of the Bushes at Walker’s Point, courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
So many Mainers and visitors describe the relief they experience when they cross over the Piscataqua River Bridge on their way into the state. Can you describe how you feel when you arrive in Maine?
When I was a child, Mother used to roll down the windows as we crossed the bridge and tell us to breathe in that Maine air. She felt it immediately made all things in life better. She was a brilliant woman.
How has Maine shaped your family life?
It is the place where all our children and grandchildren come home. And it’s where our large extended family all gather in summer. On any given day on Walker’s Point, you will run into aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins — and sometimes people who aren’t really sure how they fit in! It’s marvelous.
What did the experience of coming to Maine bring to the lives of your kids?
They all love it here. When they were growing up — well, still today — Maine is where we come to play. We play golf, tennis, horseshoes. We fish and swim. We put together puzzles. This place brings us great joy, and has since the beginning of time. You drive through the gate and you know you are home.
The Bush family at Kennebunkport, in summer 1972.
Dorothy Walker Bush, Doro Bush, and George Bush in Kennebunkport in 1962.
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey at the summer house, Barbara looked at you and said, “This is where you find peace.” Was Walker’s Point a healing place during tough periods?
I have called it my “anchor to windward.” Even when I was President, I could find peace here, even when dealing with serious issues. The sound of the sea, the salt air, even the fog horn of Goat Island Lighthouse calms the soul. And yes, clears the brain.
Which foreign leaders have been guests at Walker’s Point? Who needed the most help eating lobster?
Too many to remember, perhaps. Francois Mitterrand, King Hussein of Jordan, Prime Minister Kaifu of Japan, British Prime Minister John Major, Prime Minister Rabin of Israel, Prime Minister Schluter of Denmark. And of course, many times, our neighbor to the north, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl both came when we were all out of office. George W. hosted President Putin and French President Sarkozy here. And yes, we loved serving lobster and blueberries, but some folks are allergic to shellfish. Don’t remember if anyone needed help!
What was the most important decision made at Walker’s Point while you were serving as President?
I would say it wasn’t one single decision, but instead the time spent in August 1990, meeting with world leaders and my own team on how to handle Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
George Bush, age 13, in Kennebunkport, in July 1937. | Dorothy Walker Bush and Nancy Bush Ellis in a carriage at Walker's Point in the early 1900s.
What’s your favorite part about spending time here?
Friends. Fishing. I almost added lobster, but I like the alliteration, so leave that out.
What are your favorite places to visit in Maine?
My favorite fishing holes.
Any favorite Maine foods?
I don’t like obvious answers, but it’s lobster. I don’t eat it in Texas. Nor do I eat enchiladas here!
How do you describe your relationship with the people of Kennebunkport and Maine?
Many of our best friends live here. Mainers make the best neighbors. (As do the good folks of Texas.)
Are there any specific memories in Maine that stand out as the best of times?
I think every spring, when we smell the salt air for the first time. That is the “best of times.”
George and Barbara Bush with their grandchildren (left to right: George P., Jenna, Barbara, and Noelle) on the rocks at Walker's Point, Kennebunkport, in 1983.
Find our full tribute to President George H. W. Bush in the February 2019 issue of Down East.