Remembering President George H. W. Bush
This past weekend, President George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94. Bush was elected President of the United States when I was only eight years old. When I was in fourth grade at Presbyterian Day School in Memphis, I had the chance to go hear him speak live. It was an experience I will never forget. President Bush served our country well. Before being elected President, he was Vice President under Ronald Reagan, Director of the CIA under President Gerald Ford, Ambassador to the United Nations under President Nixon, and a Congressman from Texas from 1967-1971. He was a family man, a veteran, and once said that the three most important roles he held were that of husband, father and grandfather.
In a New York Times article this past weekend, Nashvillian Jon Meacham, also the author of a great biography of Bush titled Destiny and Power, wrote this:
“George Herbert Walker Bush, who died Friday night, at 94, was the last president of the Greatest Generation, a gentleman who came of age in an ever-uglier arena, the embodiment of a postwar era of consensus that, in our time, seems as remote as Agincourt. He deserves our praise, but he also repays closer historical consideration, for his life offers an object lesson in the best that politics, which is inherently imperfect, can be.”
Praise from both Republicans and Democrats has been pouring in over the weekend. A service will be held on Wednesday morning at the National Cathedral and a family service on Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal in Houston, Texas. This was a good man, a decent man, a moderate who was not afraid to compromise. He always wanted what was best for the country. He was humble and put others before himself. He loved his family and his friends, and he did not take his blessings for granted. He and his wife Barbara tragically lost a daughter, Robin, to leukemia in 1953, and they had to work through that pain together. One of his most difficult political defeats was his loss to Bill Clinton in 1992 when seeking a second term. It was very painful but Bush handled it with class. In a letter that he left on the Oval Office desk for the new President, he wrote the following:
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not
a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
Bush and Clinton would later become very close friends and collaborated on a number of humanitarian projects.
Clearly we are saying good bye to a man of class and dignity. As we prepare to light the candle for peace this week, let us remember that peace begins with kindness, civility, decency, and showing respect to others. Godspeed President Bush!
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