Honesty. Integrity. Courage. Hero. Dedicated to his country and his family. A loving father, grandfather, and husband. A devoted friend.
Words are inadequate to describe the life of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. Before he was elected to the highest office in the land, he was a successful businessman, Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chief of the United States Liaison Office in China, and Vice President of the United States.
Bush was a true American hero who signed up for the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday. He was not yet 19 when he received his wings as a naval aviator. Bush’s Grumman Avenger was hit by Japanese flak on a mission over the Bonin Islands. Bush and his two crewmen parachuted over open water. He was rescued by an American submarine, but his two crewmen perished. Bush earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals in recognition of his 58 missions.
Bush enjoyed living throughout his life. He was the Captain of the Yale baseball team, and was such an avid fan that the National College Baseball Foundation named its Hall of Fame Museum for President Bush.
He celebrated his advancing age by jumping out of a plane on his 75th birthday and every five years after that. His last skydiving event was at age 90 in June 2014.
Barbara Pierce married George H. W. Bush on January 6, 1945 and they enjoyed 73 years of marriage. They had six children, including their daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of three.
One child grew up to be the Governor Florida. Another became the Governor of Texas and the 43rd President of the United States.
Bush was not always successful in politics. He lost his first two races for Congress and was defeated after his first term as President by Bill Clinton. But he also oversaw some of the greatest events of the 20th century; the re-unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
I met President and Mrs. Bush only once. They were kind and gracious and I will always treasure the picture I have of them standing on either side of me.
I have tried with limited success to follow one of George H. W. Bush’s lifelong habits, that of writing letters and notes to people he interacted with on a daily basis.
George Bush personified what I always believed was the best about politics. He was called to serve and responded with a quiet, steady style of leadership that never seemed to waver. It was never about George Bush. It was about his country, and its place in the world.
President Bush reached the very pinnacle of power without ever losing the humility that he carried his entire life. History will judge him with increasing favor not just because of his contributions to America and the world, but because he did it with an honor and decency that is becoming more and more rare.
President George H. W. Bush answered the call of duty to his nation during war and peace and led them to some of their greatest achievements. Yet in doing so, he never lost his joy of living. What a great example he leaves for us to follow.
A modest and humble man that rose to great heights in leading his country. We are better off for his life of service. Well done, President Bush.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org