We’re all waking up today to news which comes as a jarring shock, despite knowing that it had to happen eventually. President George H.W. Bush has passed away at the age of 94, bringing to a close a lifetime of service to his nation. (NBC News)
The announcement of his passing was made in a statement by his son, former President George W. Bush.
“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” his son said in a statement released Friday night.
“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,” the statement read.
I only ever saw the elder Bush once in person and that was only for a fleeting moment at a fair distance. It was shortly after I’d been discharged from the Navy and had returned to New York for a visit with my family. Some family members had already been planning a trip to Washington to do all the normal tourist things and I was invited to go along. We were taking a guided tour of the monuments on the National Mall when the Secret Service suddenly appeared on the other side of the pool from our group along with a couple of vehicles, hustling people out of the way.
One of the people organizing the tour opined that it might be our lucky day and that President Reagan might be about to appear. But it turned out to be the Vice President, out for a walk and talk with some people I assume were visiting dignitaries. When he saw our group of tourists he paused for a moment, smiled and waved. And then he was gone.
Everyone across the media spectrum will be sharing Bush’s life and times today, including his military service during WW2, but as for me, I think I will always most remember him for his leadership during the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In retrospect, Operation Desert Storm was an amazing operation. As President, George H.W. Bush had to convince his own nation and the rest of the world that a tiny country many of us had never heard of (Kuwait) was important enough to let slip the dogs of war, risking the blood and treasure of nearly three dozen nations in the effort to rescue them.
Bush rallied the country and the world to that cause and executed one of the most successful military operations in our nation’s history. He was also a cautious, yet successful leader in the era after the Berlin Wall fell, during a time when many of us, perhaps foolishly, thought that communism was on the ropes and close to being driven from the world.
Bush left himself open to criticism at times, of course, particularly during the tumultuous second half of his term in the White House, but such is life in Washington I suppose. I still voted for him in 92, despite the tax package debate. But it was his continuing leadership for his remaining years on this Earth which truly helped to finish building and cementing his legacy. I do believe that he will be remembered as one of the great presidents this nation has had, despite only serving one term.
Rest in peace, Mr. President. You are reunited with your wife and other family members who went before you for a well-deserved reward.
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