My Crossings family knows that I never, ever mention the names of politicians or any current issue in the world of politics. I do this with the Governor of Oklahoma sitting in the audience most weekends. Please know this blog post is not about politics; it is about a man who spent much of his life in politics.
There was a time I could write about a President of the United States knowing there would be those who may not appreciate that President the way I did or value his politics. Today, I fear someone getting very ugly, shutting me out, or ending a friendship for writing the words I’m about to write. Perhaps I have friends who are still able to agree to disagree as we respect each other’s ideas on a variety of things in life.
I was 23 years old when George H.W. Bush became the 41st President of the United States. It was still a time in my life when I did not pay much attention to politics. There were no 24-hour-a-day television programs airing debates about every move a President made. I don’t recall television that had four or more commentators talking over each other in such a way that you couldn’t even understand what they were saying.
While those were not perfect times in our country, our media options seemed to be focused more on the facts than creating drama around every move made in the political world. Don’t get me wrong; there were the typical disagreements and both sides were always pointing out the virtues of their views. So, what little news I paid attention to came from the evening news, and I rarely found a reason to watch.
I liked Ronald Reagan. He inspired me. I liked Jimmy Carter. He seemed committed to his faith and was not ashamed to be a Christian. I found myself interested in George H.W. Bush due to all the positive things being said about him personally as a husband, father, and friend. There are many reasons I like the Bush family, and this post will explore a few of them.
First, I like how they value family. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Laura Bush during two visits to Oklahoma City, one of which took place in our church. She always has very interesting, humorous, and down-to-earth comments about family. If you’ve watched any of the various ceremonies or services that have recently taken place, you’ve heard descriptions of a close knit family that values each other even when they disagree.
One need look no further for an example of great love than the marriage of George and Barbara Bush. There are countless interviews and books, as well as the observation of close friends, which deal with the admiration of George and Barbara’s love for each other. As they say, the evidence is obvious. Through the ups and downs of life, they were in love for seventy-three years, which was the longest marriage in presidential history.
During the televised ceremonies, services, and interviews, I was reminded of the loyalty and love Bush 41 had for our country. That love was sewn into the fabric of his life early on. He was one of the Navy’s youngest pilots at 18 years old, and he nearly lost his life fighting for our country. He had quite an impressive list of accomplishments during his time in the Navy.
He demonstrated a deep commitment to community service and, ultimately, to serving our country. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas, 10th Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican Party, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, Director of the CIA, Vice President of the United States, and the 41st President of the United States.
A third observation was repeated over and over last week, including such comments as:
“He will be remembered for his personal decency.”
“Although Mr. Bush served as President nearly three decades ago, his values and ethics seem centuries removed from today’s acrid political culture. His currency of personal connection was the handwritten letter.”
I’m thankful to have been a citizen of the United States during his presidency. I remember days when he could make decisions which pleased Republicans and others which won him friendships with Democrats. He chose not to villainize those who criticized him or disagreed with him. He spoke well of those he disagreed with as well as those who disagreed with him.
As a president, he served in a time where basic decency was the norm. There could be sharp disagreement without the need to dismantle someone’s reputation in social media or berate them in public. He was diplomatic and sought to make the best compromises he could so everyone could win something.
A fourth observation was that he was an excellent friend. His frequent comments reflected his affection for those he worked with and did life with. After a bitter campaign with Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush set aside the rivalry and became one his closest friends.
Last week, many of his close friends–some allies and a few one-time enemies–spoke of him with endearing and meaningful words. The most meaningful words were spoken by his own children and grandchildren.
A fifth observation was his steadfast faith. He never shied away from talking about his reliance on God. George and Barbara valued their church; it was a special place to them, especially their Houston church home. George believed Barbara went to heaven last April, and he believed he would see her again. He looked forward to holding Barbara’s hand again and he could not wait to hold their three-year-old daughter who died of cancer in 1953.
After Mrs. Bush died last April, he issued a statement:
“We have faith she is in heaven, and we know life will go on as she would have it. So cross the Bushes off your worry list!”
On the day of his death, his best friend, James A. Baker, told Bush he was going to heaven. He replied, “Good. That’s where I want to go.”
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At the end of the day, I choose to respect our leaders, even though there are times I find it very difficult to do so. It has always seemed logical to me to refrain from being critical of people whose shoes I’ve never had to fill.
If I went back to the 80s and studied the political wins and losses of President George H.W. Bush, I’m certain I would find issues I would have paid attention to that seemed off his radar. But I’m not reporting here on his political accomplishments or failures. I’m simply saying I respect this man who loved his wife for seventy-three years and loved his kids and grandkids.
He seems to have decided to lead with kindness and decency. He valued people over politics regardless of who they were, what they believed, or how they voted.
During highlight stories, interviews from the past, and coverage of his service, most media outlets claimed he “represented another era.” I hope we took notes, and I hope his character and legacy cause us to think of the legacy each of us will leave behind.