Bush legacy: ‘A truly beautiful human being’
President George H.W. Bush espoused family and faith, and the values and virtues instilled in him growing up during the Depression years were building blocks for an extraordinary life of service to the nation.
During the recent moving eulogies in Washington, D.C., and in Texas, we repeatedly heard words like humility, grace, kindness, friendship and loyalty during the glowing tributes.
The accolades were refreshing, given the stream of toxic language spewing out of Washington now that divides the nation along political lines.
An emotional tribute came from George W. Bush, the 43rd president. The Bushes are only the second father and son to both serve as president in U.S. history, and this was the first time one president eulogized another from the same family.
In 1826, President John Quincy Adams did not learn his father, John Adams, the second president, had died until after he had been buried.
Choking back tears, George W. referred to his father as a noble man and the best father a son or daughter could have.
“He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” said George W.
Jim Baker, Bush’s former secretary of state who was with Bush when he died two weeks ago, delivered a moving eulogy during the memorial service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. He called his longtime friend Bush “a truly beautiful human being” and the “nation’s best one-term president.
“Today, as we entrust his soul to heaven, his name to history and his memory to our hearts, I must begin with an apology,” Baker said. “I am about to do something you always hated and that your mother always told you not to do: brag about yourself.”
Baker said Bush “possessed the classic virtues” of the Founding Fathers, noting how he handled the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.
“He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite eloquent — and he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the hard granite of history,” Baker said.
The military tributes to Bush, who at age 18 earned his wings to become one of the youngest Naval aviators in history, were inspiring. As part of The Greatest Generation, Bush is the last president to have served in World War II.
Congress said goodbye to its last World War II veterans in 2015. President Jimmy Carter, 94, who spent the war years at the Naval Academy, attended the tribute in Washington.
The appearance in the Capitol Rotunda of former Sen. Bob Dole, Bush’s former political rival and fellow World War II veteran, provided a riveting moment.
Now 95 and looking frail, Dole was helped out of his wheelchair so he could stand briefly before Bush’s body and salute the casket of his World War II comrade.
We’ll always remember the photo of Bush’s specially trained service dog Sully lying by his late owner’s flag-draped casket at the Capitol. The yellow Labrador was given to Bush by veterans charity America’s VetDogs following the death of his beloved wife, Barbara, last April. Bush’s post-White House spokesman Jim McGrath provided a perfect two-word caption for the image of Sully with the 41st president’s casket: “Mission complete.”
Although Sully’s duty to the 41st president has ended, he will remain active. According to America’s VetDogs, the canine will soon go back to work alongside two other service dogs helping wounded military personnel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
George H.W. Bush, who knew all about devotion to duty, would want it no other way.
By Jim Zbick | firstname.lastname@example.org