December 05, 2018"... a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."
That was George H.W. Bush as he accepted the Republican nomination for President in 1988. When he passed away last Friday at the age of 94, he himself became one of the thousand points of light he spoke about.
Everyone who knows me knows I'm a proud middle-of-the-road, moderate Democrat. But if you've read my column over the years you know there were many middle-of-the-road, moderate Republicans that I have admired and written about. People like Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald R. Ford, Michigan Governors George Romney and William Milliken, and State Rep. Roy Spencer.
Add President George Herbert Walker Bush to that list.
President Bush, by the fact he was a human being, was not perfect by any stretch. And the profession he chose, politics, as the old saying goes "ain't bean bag." But he was a decent, caring, smart, competent public servant.
Yes, readers, there was a time in this country when the words "public servant" were honorable words; when putting country first was the norm. People who ran for and held public office were opponents, not enemies. They fought like tigers for their views and positions but could work together to find a shared solution to a problem.
George Bush was that kind of public servant. He was born into wealth and prestige and could have simply continued to accumulate more and more wealth and live the life of a mogul. But he took a chance, formed his own company and once he proved he could make it on his own, he turned to a life of service to others.
He was the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy, shot down over the Pacific in World War II and was lucky to be found floating in the ocean by a U.S. submarine. He was married to the same woman for 73 years, had children who grew up to be famous, even President, in their own right. And he and Mrs. Bush suffered the greatest hurt one can, in my opinion, experience, the loss of a child.
He served as county Republican chair, National Republican Chair, Member of Congress, Ambassador to the United Nations, first U.S. Envoy to China, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President and President of the United States. By any measure that is an impressive resume.
Bush served honorably in all of those positions, fighting for the good of America first. He had as many friends on the Democratic side of the aisle as he did his own party. Look at how he and the Democrat who defeated him for re-election became such close friends and worked together on so many humanitarian missions.
I won't take up pages and pages citing Bush's many successes and failures. I'd suggest that you look this up on your computer: http://time.com/4754901/president-george-hw-bush-accomplishments/
Unfortunately, his moderation eventually led to his downfall. As a part of Dow Chemical's government affairs department, I attended the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. I watched as Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan led the newly empowered right wing of the party to assert itself and the tepid support Bush received from his party, along with a strong third-party candidate in Ross Perot, enabled a young Governor of Arkansas to become President.
I had the honor to see and meet Mr. Bush on numerous occasions including when he was Vice President and President. I met him in 1988 in Atlanta when as VP he was campaigning for the top spot on the ticket. I attended his inauguration as President in January 1989.
I saw him and Mrs. Bush in Grand Rapids on the Fourth of July 1991 as he honored the Michigan members of the Armed Forces returning from the Gulf War. I walked across the Mackinac Bridge with him on Labor Day1992 and had my picture taken with him at the Governor's Gala at Cobo Hall in Detroit in 1992.
When we engaged in conversation he made me feel like he really wanted to hear me, not just smile and move on to the next person.
That was George Bush. Ask anyone who has ever met and talked to him and they will tell you the same thing. The lessons he learned from his mother about not bragging and caring about others never left him. He had plenty to brag about like the fall of the Berlin Wall but he never did unlike some in public office today.
And he never lost his wonderful sense of humor. He could poke fun at himself and laugh when others did.
I hope that someday the people in politics on both sides of the aisle will be less extreme and act more like public servants. And throw the Twitter machine in the trash. OK, I'm naive. Wishful thinking I know. But, maybe…
Thank you, President and Mrs. Bush, for showing us that it CAN be done. Your points of light will be forever visible to us in the broad and peaceful sky.
Email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.