With everyone from former presidents to biographers finding words to memorialize the late George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, this writer has a tough task finding words of his own.
Never ask me to serve as eulogist at a funeral, because I can think of but not express the proper words to remember the accomplishments of anyone.
In retrospect, I find that Bush, who passed away on Friday, was a president with flaws, but doesn’t that describe any one of us?
It was easy for political opponents to make fun of him for his gaffes and dismiss his humanity considering his background of wealth, privilege and power.
My more liberal friends joked about his “1,000 points of light” speech and further dismissed him as just a good old boy with a cushy life because of his background.
Listening to those more familiar with his life tells us a different story, of someone who volunteered for the U.S. Navy in time of war even though he probably could have avoided service given his connections and background.
Bush flew 58 combat missions during World War II and narrowly avoided losing his life when he was shot down.
Some have referred to a verse in the Bible to describe Bush, Luke 12:48, “...For everyone to whom much has been given from him, much will be required.”
Although realizing the partisan nature of politics, Bush was ultimately guided by a sense of service to family and country, as naïve and trite as that notion may sound to those of us with negative attitudes.
No less than former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat and former political adversary of Bush, described the contents of a note that Bush left Clinton upon Bush’s departure from the oval office following his defeat at the hands of Clinton in the 1991 presidential race.
Bush told Clinton in that note about the “tough times” Clinton would face and how to deal with it.
“I’m not a very good one to give you advice, but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course,” Bush wrote.
Bush and Clinton later teamed up for a number of bi-partisan causes which transcended politics, a lesson that we can benefit from today.
Clinton has been quoted as saying about Bush that “people came before politics, patriotism before partisanship.”
The Romantic poet William Wordsworth indeed was wise beyond his years, with his sonnet, “The World Is Too Much With Us, “ composed around 1802, something I refer to often in my columns.
In it, Wordsworth criticizes the First Industrial Revolution for its emersion in materialism, and one can translate that lesson to today’s world with its reliance on technology such as Facebook.
The closer we seem to get, it seems, the farther away we are in today’s world, and nothing can substitute for the face-to-face contact we all should crave.
We can’t solve the world’s problems by dismissing those who feel differently than we do, and civil disobedience, a sacred cow for some of us, does not in my mind extend to confronting someone while they are dining with their family.
I find it difficult to be uncivil with anyone once I come face-to-face with them, regardless of perceived differences, and I think if we adopt the civility and understanding reflected in the relationship between former adversaries such as Bush and Clinton, we’d all be better off in the long run.