Monday, December 10, 2018

Remembering 41

There were many memorials this past week, honoring George H. W. Bush following his passing at the age of 96. I don’t have much to add to all those. Just a few personal notes.

I hadn’t thought that much about it, but the elder Bush was a Houstonian, so people here have kind of a claim on him. The Houston Chronicle included multiple sections related to honoring him—I imagine more than any other newspaper in the country.

George H. W. Bush started his political career as the county Republican Party Chair. I wasn’t here then, but I’ve frequently met the current HCRP Chair, so it makes President Bush seem historically very accessible to us grassroots types.

some of the inserts in the Houston Chronicle, December 9, 2018

The train that carried him from the Houston funeral to the final resting place in College Station, a couple of hours to the northwest, where the Bush Library is located, passed through town. The schedule was published, and people came and stood along the tracks to get a glimpse along the way. I didn’t make it, but I had friends who did. Facebook was full of posts with people waiting, then catching photos and videos of the train going by.
4141, the George H. W. Bush memorial train
carrying him to his final resting place,
photo from Mark Ramsey's Facebook page

I didn’t ever meet George H. W. Bush, but I did get to hear him speak in public. It was a dozen or so years ago. I was helping a banker write his life and work story, and he invited us to an event with dinner and speeches, related to a literacy charity. The crowd was not one I am typically part of, and I remember feeling a little bit uncomfortable (maybe frumpy), but also honored to be generously included.

George H. W. Bush was a speaker. It was a casual speech. He spoke to several hundred people as though he were talking with a few friends on someone’s back patio. He was pleasant, good-humored, and effortlessly comfortable—making us in the audience feel that way too. I think that is genuinely how he was.

One thing he was known for was his Thousand Points of Light, encouraging people to work to improve the world wherever they are. He used the phrase in a couple of speeches, and then it became a foundation to honor significant community service. My father-in-law received a Thousand Points of Light award the year he retired as a special education administrator in an elementary school district—where three people were required to replace him. I remembered being surprised that the awards the former president had made happen actually came to real people working in their communities.

He had an exemplary marriage and family. Many people mentioned his going to heaven where his wife, Barbara, who passed away just months ago, was waiting for him along with their daughter Robyn. In this age of #metoo, one note I saw mentioned that Barbara was the only woman he had ever kissed. With their children running state and federal governments, it could have been about power. But when you look at their personalities, you realize it’s more about public service. His son, George W. Bush (Bush 43) gave a touching eulogy, clearly heartfelt, honoring a father whose love he felt and love in return.

Even those who didn’t always agree with the elder Bush’s policies agree that he was caring, considerate, gentle, and decent. We would be much better off if that were the legacy more of us were living to earn.

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