What We Can Learn From the Words of George H.W. Bush

He was known for his leadership, humility and unwavering sense of duty.
Tuesday 4 December 2018
George H.W. Bush waves to supporters. Photo: CNN

The late President George Herbert Walker Bush was a man known for many achievements, namely his efforts in handling foreign policy (he played a large role in bringing an end to the Cold War) and his strategy in building an international coalition to liberate Kuwait during the Gulf War.

He was also the second American president after John Adams to have a son follow in his footsteps to be elected as president. The relationship between the 41st president of the United States and his eldest son, George W. Bush has been long been scrutinised by the public and became the topic of a book by Bush junior in 2014, 41: A Portrait of My Father.

The late president’s final words in a phone call to his son further defines the relationship between the two former American presidents and his image as a family man. According to The New York Times who first reported the news, George W. Bush spoke in a conversation over speakerphone with his father saying that he’d been a “wonderful dad.” His father’s reply and final words were, “I love you, too.” Not only do they speak to the close relationship he shared with his son, but they belie a sensitivity that seems lacking in today’s political climate.

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George H.W. Bush holds his son, George W. Bush in Midland, Texas in a photo from 1949. Photo: CNN

Bush passed away at the age of 94 at his home in Houston, Texas, surrounded by his family including his son Neil Bush and his wife Maria, his best friend and former Secretary of State James Barker and his grandson Pierce Bush. According to the report, a source close to the Bush family stated that the late president was asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, instead he declined and said he was ready to go and be with his late wife of 73 years, Barbara and his daughter Robin who had died of leukemia as a child.

We take a look at some of the George H.W. Bush’s memorable words that have left an impact throughout his lifetime.

From his inaugural address in January 1989
“We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”

During a ceremony to honour his mentor, former President Ronald Reagan with the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, March 2011
“There could be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others. Find something to do. Get off the bench. Don’t sit there whining, sucking your thumb, get in the game.”

In his State of the Union Address, January 1990
“The anchor in our world today is freedom, holding us steady in times of change, a symbol of hope to all the world.”

In a speech he made to introduce Bill Clinton on stage, 2009
“Because you run against each other, that doesn’t mean you’re enemies. Politics doesn’t have to be mean and ugly.”

In an interview with TIME magazine on the effects of living in an age of the 24 hour news cycle, 2011
“I think the 24 hour news cycle has helped exaggerate the differences between the parties. You can always find someone on TV somewhere carping about something.”

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Bill Clinton signing the NAFTA agreement while George H.W. Bush and other United States officials look on. Photo: J. David Ake/AFP

In a handwritten letter to the newly appointed President Bill Clinton, Jan 20 1993
“There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.”

Reflecting further on his words, former President Bill Clinton had this to say in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

“He was an honourable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future. And he believed in his duty to defend and strengthen them, in victory and defeat. He also had a natural humanity, always hoping with all his heart that others’ journeys would include some of the joy that his family, his service and his adventures gave him.”

Poignantly, these words from Clinton seem more out of reach than ever in a political climate rife with hostility, volatility and extreme partisanship:

“Even more important, though he could be tough in a political fight, he was in it for the right reasons: People always came before politics, patriotism before partisanship. To the end, we knew we would never agree on everything, and we agreed that was okay. Honest debate strengthens democracy.”

Source: CNN International, The New York Times, Business Insider, BBC, TIME, entrepreneur.com

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