George Herbert Walker Bush was the first President I remember. I was eight years old when he was elected and I remember he beat that guy whose tank helmet was too big for his head.
George Bush was beacon of civility in a cruel profession. What I have learned about him since his exit from office is the exact opposite of what we see in politics today. His character was above reproach and his character mattered to him. Here are some of the highlights:
He was the son of a wealthy Senator, yet chose to serve as a fighter pilot in World War II. He could have found a place of service in relative safety far behind the front lines, but he chose to be in the thick of the action. His character was evident at an early age.
He routinely sacrificed politically advantageous and influential positions to serve at the behest of the current President. He was elected to the House of Representatives, but resigned his seat to serve at the behest of President Nixon.
He formed a lasting friendship with President Bill Clinton in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. His goal was to do what was best for those who had been affected. He was not there to promote himself. That’s a man of character.
He also wrote a note to President Clinton as he exited The White House. Clinton said, “I was touched by his kindness.” Clinton also stated that President Bush was like the father he never had. The man who befriends his political adversary who took every opportunity to trash his reputation on the campaign trail is a man of character.
In a documentary about The White House and its most recent occupants, the permanent White House staff all praised President Bush and his wife as decent, kind, caring, and affectionate. President Bush was known to send personal condolences to White House staffers when they had lost a loved one. In Colossians 3:12, the Bible says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” President Bush exemplified these traits.
He invited Dana Carvey to perform at The White House. Dana Carvey regularly President Bush on Saturday Night Live. I’ve seen the footage of Carvey’s performance at The White House. The loudest laughter came from the man who was being impersonated. Who does that? A man of humility and grace.
He sacrificed his reelection bid to do what was best for the country. President Clinton won the election because President Bush raised taxes. It was, in his estimate, what was best for the country. this self sacrificial move probably prevented our country from sinking farther into the recession of the early 90s and many economists believe, set the stage for the economic boom of the mid to late 90s.
He kicked Sadam Hussein out of Kuwait, but resisted the urge to oust him from power. He made a promise to kick him out of Kuwait, not to remove him from power. He kept that promise, and two decades later, we can see the wisdom behind that decision.
He kept a low post presidency profile. He went about the business of serving others after he left The White House. he did not interfere with political affairs though he had ample opportunity. He spent 24 years as an ex-president and the enduring images of his post presidency career are those of service to others and Houston Astros ballgames, where he had a seat directly behind home plate. I’m glad he was able to see them win a World Series.
He was a life long member of the National Rifle Association, a bastion of republican support. He, however, resigned his membership in 1995 when then President, Wayne LaPierre, mad disparaging statements towards federal law enforcement officers. That requires a man of character.
When our current President insulted the Bush family during the 2016 election, the Bush family did not retaliate. The whole family emulated the character of President Bush.
The last time we saw President Bush was a this wife’s funeral in April. His son was pushing him down the aisle as they exited the church. He elicited love from every member of his family because he showed that kind of love in return. This man of character loved his family more than his country.
He was a man who served his country and not himself. He was a man who was gentle but not a wimp. He was a man who was humble yet supremely self confident. He was a man who’s character and reputation mattered more than his politics.
He was a religious man and I believe this kind of character can only come from a man who knows Christ as his Savior. He loved God by loving others.
Our country lost a statesman, a moderate politician and a philanthropist, but most of all our nation has lost a piece of its character. He was the last President from the greatest generation, and he was the last President who put character above politics.
Do we really want to make American great again? American greatness was forged in the fires that tried the souls of great men like President Bush. American greatness will never be found in a surly tweet, or a snarky quip. It will always seep forth through the pores of men who prize character above everything else.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”. May God make our country great again with more men like George Herbert Walker Bush.