George W. Bush gives candid speech at Salt Lake business conference

Published: Wednesday, May 29 2013 5:40 p.m. MDT

Former President George W. Bush answers questions at the Zions Bank Trade and Business Conference. Bush was the featured speaker at the event on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek.

Zions Bank

SALT LAKE CITY — President George W. Bush came to Salt Lake City Wednesday to speak to business leaders at Zions Bank’s 12th annual Trade and Business Conference.

He was brought in to talk business, but Bush went in a bunch of different directions during his one-hour speech. Bush talked diplomacy, democracy and women’s issues with more than 930 invited guests in downtown Salt Lake City. The speech was closed to the public and the media.

Bush defended sending American troops into Iraq.

“It was a necessary thing, to remove an individual who was creating great harm to his own people and the rest of the world,” Kent Bowman said of the speech. “He was not in a position as being the leader of the most powerful country in the world to sit by and watch that negativity and that harm take place in that part of the world.”

Bowman said Bush was disappointed that more isn't being done to correct the problems in Syria.

“His key message was when people are dying to the extent of 80,000 that something ought to be done by the free peoples of the world,” he said.

But Bush didn’t offer concrete steps to end the civil war there.

West Valley City Councilman Corey Rushton, another conference attendee, said Bush was optimistic for the future in the Middle East in the coming years and decades.

Bowman said Bush wanted people in the audience to see that he cares about people in general.

“He wants to be remembered as someone who stepped up to the plate and did everything that he could to push an agenda to allow all the peoples of the world to have freedom,” Bowman said.

Rushton said what stood out to him the most was the former president’s candor. He said because Bush isn’t running for elected office, he could tell people his mistakes, his hopes, his fears.

Bowman said the main take away for him was that Bush was down to Earth, funny, and had a sense of humor. He even mentioned problems he had during his administration with mispronouncing words.

Rushton said Bush even made fun of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, referring to U2 singer Bono as “Bonner.”

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: psamore@deseretnews.com

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