FORT WORTH, Texas - After nine months of being nearly invisible - a big outing has been to a Dallas hardware store for flashlights - George W. Bush made his debut Monday in his latest incarnation: motivational speaker.
Nearly 15,000 people heard the former president, known more for mangling the English language than for his eloquence, reminisce about his White House days. Bush, who is writing a book about the dozen toughest decisions he had to make, used much of his 28 minutes onstage to talk about lighter topics such as picking out a rug design for the Oval Office that reflected his "optimism."
Perhaps in a nod to his dismal 22 percent approval ratings when he left office, Bush noted that "popularity is fleeting. ... It's not real."
He beamed at the standing ovations from the friendly hometown crowd - he now lives in nearby Dallas.
Looking younger than his 63 years and relaxed, Bush did not appear to have an overarching theme, but strung anecdotes and jokes together and frequently mentioned his faith in God.
"I don't see how you can be president without relying on the Almighty. Now when I was 21, I wouldn't have told you that, but at age 63, I can tell you that one of the most amazing surprises of the presidency was the fact that people's prayers affected me. I can't prove it to you. But I can tell you some days were great, some days not so great. But every day was joyous." He attributed that to the prayers of others.
His speech came after the crowd at the "GET MOTIVATED!" seminar stood up and danced to the Beach Boys' song Surfin' USA and batted around beach balls tossed into the audience.
The well-publicized event appears to mark the beginning of a higher profile for Bush.
Just last week he gave three speeches in Canada, and he has joined the Washington Speakers Bureau. He is scheduled to give another motivational speech next month in San Antonio.
Former presidential adviser Karen Hughes said he has "quite a few speeches planned" during the fall.