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Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush and Washington Post columnist, dies at 58

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Washington
CNN
 — 

Michael Gerson, a top speechwriter for President George W. Bush and longtime Washington Post columnist, has died. He was 58.

“Laura and I are heartbroken by the loss of our dear friend, Mike Gerson. He was a great writer, and I was fortunate he served as my chief speechwriter and a trusted advisor for many years,” Bush said in a statement on Thursday. “His brilliant mind was enhanced by his big heart. As a result, Mike harnessed the power of the pen to not just write about good policy, but drive it.”

A moderate conservative, Gerson worked on Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign as chief speechwriter and senior policy adviser. He served as a top aide to Bush during his presidency, including deputy assistant to the president, assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning, and director of presidential speechwriting.

As a speechwriter, he was instrumental in forming pivotal addresses of calm and unity after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Leading a team of speechwriters, Gerson was also the architect of presidential addresses and speeches that included the famous phrase “axis of evil” and ushered the US toward the war in Iraq.

When asked to cite his “favorite addresses” during an interview, Gerson pointed to those following the September 11 attacks and denoted a line in a speech given by Bush during a prayer service at the National Cathedral three days later: “Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn.”

He stepped back from speechwriting after a heart attack in 2004 before leaving the Bush administration in 2006. After his stint at the White House, he became an opinion writer for the Washington Post, often criticizing former President Barack Obama on foreign policy and the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald Trump.

Born in Belmar, New Jersey, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Gerson graduated from Wheaton College in 1986 after studying theology. After college, Gerson worked at Prison Fellowship Ministries as a ghost writer before working as an aide on Capitol Hill, according to the Washington Post.