Jeb Bush says, Yes, I Drank Alcohol and Smoked Marijuana and Almost Flunked Out of High School — So There You Have it Up Front

Jeb Bush and his grandfather, Prescott Bush, at Jeb’s graduation from Andover in June 1971. (GEORGE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY)
Jeb Bush and his grandfather, Prescott Bush, at Jeb’s graduation from Andover in June 1971. (GEORGE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY)

In the fall of 1967, when a 14-year-old Texan named John Ellis Bush arrived on the bucolic campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, great expectations preceded him.

Jeb, as he was known, should have been an easy fit in that elite and ivied world. His much-accomplished father and his older brother had both gone to Andover; no one was surprised that Jeb had followed suit.

But this Bush almost ran aground in those first, formative prep school days. He bore little resemblance to his father, a star on many fronts at Andover, and might have been an even worse student than brother George. Classmates said he smoked a notable amount of pot — as many did — and sometimes bullied smaller students.

Resolutely apolitical despite his lineage, he refused to join the Progressive Andover Republicans club and often declined even to participate in informal bull sessions with classmates. In a tumultuous season in American life, he seemed to his peers strangely detached and indifferent.

“He was just in a bit of a different world,” said Phil Sylvester, who said he was a Bush roommate. While other students “were constantly arguing about politics and particularly Vietnam, he just wasn’t interested, he didn’t participate, he didn’t care.”

Meanwhile, his grades were so poor that he was in danger of being expelled, which would have been a huge embarrassment to his father, a member of Congress and of the school’s board of trustees.

Bush, in an interview for this story, recalled it as one of the most difficult times of his life, while acknowledging that he made it harder by initially breaking a series of rules.

“I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” Bush said, both of which could have led to expulsion. “It was pretty common.” He said he had no recollection of bullying and said he was surprised to be perceived that way by some.

If the school’s motto proved true — that “The End Depends on the Beginning” — then things weren’t beginning well for Jeb Bush; certainly it wasn’t the path one would expect of a future GOP presidential candidate, as he seems increasingly likely to be.

It would take four years on the campus 24 miles north of Boston for Bush to straighten out. Indeed, for Bush, the story of Andover is how it ended — and it ended very well. But that hardly seemed possible when he traveled to Massachusetts in the fall of 1967.

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SOURCE: 
The Boston Globe

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