Yesterday, a man of respect died. George Herbert Walker Bush died at age 94, just a few months after the death of his wife and soul-mate, Barbara. I have never ascribed to a conservative or Republican ideology, and thus I often disagreed with many of Bush’s policies. But I always respected the man. George Bush was a good man, a man of dignity and compassion, a man who cared about this nation and the people who live in it, Republicans and Democrats alike.
George H.W. Bush was among the last of a dying breed.
Until Friday, there were five living former-presidents, the men pictured above. Each and every one of those men both gave and earned respect. None were perfect, all made mistakes, but their hearts were in the right place and they unfailingly acted in what they believed was the best interest of this nation and its people. Not a single one of these men put their own business interests ahead of the interests of the people they were to represent. Not a single one of these men were so arrogant that they believed themselves better, more intelligent, or more important than any one of us. They understood that they worked for us, rather than the other way around.
These men were thinkers. They did not scream or rant in order to get their point across. They were men of dignity, men of courage, men of respect. Interesting word, ‘respect’. True respect is earned, not given lightly. George H.W. Bush earned the respect not only of the citizens of this nation, but of foreign leaders around the globe. He was, despite his “no new taxes” promise that he had to break a short time later, a man of his word. He was an honest man, a man of integrity. When he spoke, he spoke the truth, or what was the truth to the best of his knowledge.
George H.W. Bush walked out of the Oval Office for the last time on 20 January 1993, after serving only one term, but he did not stop trying to make the world a better place. More than ten years later, he and another former president, Bill Clinton, came together to lead aid efforts in tsunami-ravaged South Pacific disaster zones, and later in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.President Bush supported a wide variety of humanitarian causes throughout his life in areas of Abuse, Adoption, Fostering, Orphans, AIDS & HIV, Animals, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Children, Disaster Relief, Economic/Business Support, Education, Environment, Health, Homelessness, Human Rights, Hunger, Mental Challenges, Miscellaneous, Physical Challenges, Poverty, Sports, Women.
From 1993 to 1999, he served as the chairman of the board of trustees for Eisenhower Fellowships, and from 2007 to 2009 was chairman of the National Constitution Center. In July 2013, Bush had his head shaved in a show of support for the two-year-old son of a member of his security detail, who had leukemia. In 1993, Bush was awarded an honorary knighthood (GCB) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was only the third American president to receive the honor, the others being Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
All of these are parts of the whole, parts of what made George H.W. Bush a good man, an honourable man, a man who earned respect. You didn’t need to agree with his politics to see that at the very least, he was a man of deep convictions, a man of conscience.
On Friday, the nation lost one of the last presidents we will likely ever see who was deserving of respect. Four remain to remind us of better times, of times when leaders worked hard to ensure the safety and prosperity of everyone, not just a select few. Times have changed, and George H.W. Bush was an icon of times past. R.I.P., President Bush … you will be missed.