Read time: 2 minutes

The Unintentional Humor Of 'A Charge To Keep'

As president, George W. Bush loves to talk to those who visit the Oval Office about the rug on the floor. (He claims to have tasked Laura Bush with

As president, George W. Bush loves to talk to those who visit the Oval Office about the rug on the floor. (He claims to have tasked Laura Bush with helping come up with a design that communicated “optimistic person” to those who saw it.)

But as governor, Bush wasn’t excited about his carpet; he was excited about a painting: “A Charge to Keep.” In 1995, he issued a memo to his Texas staff, describing the painting, by W.H.D. Koerner in 1916, which he kept on his office wall. Bush told his aides:

The reason I bring this up is that the painting is based upon the Charles Wesley hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have”. I am particularly impressed by the second verse of this hymn. The second verse goes like this: “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will”

This is our mission. This verse captures our spirit. […]

When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.

When one looks at the painting, you see a man on horseback — who actually looks a little like Bush — apparently leading a group of missionaries. It worked for Bush on a couple of levels: the title comes from one of the president’s favorite Methodist hymns, the man in the picture looks like him, and he related to the missionary work depicted in the painting.

He liked all of this so much, Bush used the title for his autobiography (which he admittedly did not write). He even brought the picture with him to Washington upon taking office.

The funny part is the truth about the painting: "Bush’s inspiring, proselytizing Methodist is in fact a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob."

Can you help us out?

For 17 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.

More C&L Coverage


New Commenting System

Our comments are now powered by Insticator. In order to comment you will need to create an Insticator account. The process is quick and simple. Please note that the ability to comment with a C&L site account is no longer available.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.

Please Do Not Use the Login Link at the Top of the Site.

In order to comment you must use an Insticator account. To register an account, enter your comment and click the post button. A dialog will then appear allowing you create your account.

We will be retiring our Crooks and Liars user account system in January, 2021.

Thank you.
C&L Team