George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, is being described as statesman, gentleman, role model, Barbara’s husband, W’s dad, servant leader, best-prepared president, point of light, intelligence chief, advocate for volunteerism, the poor, and disabled, a man who wore greatness quietly, and the list goes on. These words describe a man most of us probably didn’t give much thought to on a given day, yet, no matter the party or person, Mr. Bush was admired and praised for being what former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel called “humble, gracious and decent.” If we’re looking for a hero and bipartisan champion, this legacy of service and uplift seems to qualify.
During my lifetime six presidents, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, have died and I’ve spent countless hours watching everything from their early childhood, family life, faith, appointments, challenges and triumphs, but over the past weeks, I have developed a whole new appreciation for “Bush 41.” I remember reading his lips about taxes, hoping he’d finally realize that it was the economy, pondered his Supreme Court nominations, loved his adoration of Mrs. Bush, applauded his skydiving adventures, and applauded the humanitarian work he did. I pray his legacy of service and honor can/will be a model for those who come after him.
During one of the interviews for her new book, Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama, talked about the Office of the President and how the people who occupy it adapt and grow. She said there are great expectations and the occupants learn to be contemplative and thoughtful. They listen before they speak because every word, every decision– everything has consequences –and she said the president must quickly understand that. She said the pressure is enormous and when the people look to him for guidance and direction, it has to be expressed carefully and confidently.
President George Herbert Walker Bush got it.
“I’ve tried to serve with no dishonor—nothing to sully this beautiful place and this job I’ve been privileged to hold,” President Bush said, according to People magazine. He understood that serving in this office was a privilege and it belonged to a precious democracy he was elected to uphold and protect. His election was about service to his country and making the world a kinder, gentler place. Even people who didn’t agree with his politics or presidency give him high marks.
The Bush grandchildren were sad but delighted that their Ganny and Gampy would be together for the holidays since they had never been separated during their 73-year marriage. Mr. Bush often said “being Barbara’s husband was one of his greatest feats” and they were beautiful together. Like any proud parents, they basked in their children’s successes and were there to console during the tough times. They modeled for us a life of service and commitment and I’m grateful.
As the holiday season approaches, there are so many things that weigh on our hearts—war, poverty, intolerance, addiction, immigration, job losses, homelessness, senseless deaths, violence, injustice, the plight of children, hunger—fill in the blank and somebody you know needs our prayers and well wishes. Let us be inspired by this Bush love story and be a point of light for those who suffer in darkness and loneliness. Let us be kinder and gentler than we have to be as we share with our neighbors and live a life of service every day. Amen.
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