Later today, George H. W. Bush will be carried by train to his final resting place at the presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M.
The locomotive will take Bush's casket and close family from Houston to College Station. After arriving, a motorcade will take the former president to his presidential library.
The family will then hold a private ceremony where Bush will be buried next to his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died in April, and their 3-year-old daughter Robin, who died in 1953 of leukemia.
Bush Sr. will go down as one of the most successful one-term presidents in America's history. His commitment, character and service to his country will be what he is most remembered by.
Bush served his country honorably in so many ways, in World War ll, as a senator, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the CIA, vice president and president. He will go down as more than just a political figure. In more ways than one, Bush was a servant – to his country, to the people, and to his family. His service will forever immortalize him as man that was devoted to duty.
And while his commitment will never be questioned, it was his selflessness that will define George H. W. Bush the person. Above all else, Bush was best known for his humility. He took the high road, rarely praising his accolades and accomplishments.
His military record is extensive, logging 1,228 hours of flight time, 126 carrier landings, and flying 58 combat missions, eventually being shot down during a mission in 1944. Bush was also the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Not once did he seek admiration for his devotion to his country.
As president, Bush was known for his foreign policies and how they shaped the entire world. At the beginning of his presidency, Bush was tasked with ending the Cold War. Though Ronald Reagan was credited with winning the Cold War, it was Bush who helped ensure when communism collapsed, it fell as softly as possible. Mainly, it fell without the bloody revolutionary upheaval that had occurred during its rise three quarters of a century before.
Bush finished what Regan started. He prevented mass bloodshed with his cultivation of a strong relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev. The Cold War ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. A quiet end from a soft-spoken man.
Bush had every right to reap the rewards for orchestrating the end of the Cold War. But in fine fashion, he showed meekness, allowing Germany to have their moment after the Berlin Wall fell – something the president was criticized for by the media. His mild-mannered ways didn't sit well with reporters who wanted him to celebrate the victory. The media couldn’t understand why the president was not more euphoric as the wall came down.
“I’m elated,” Bush told a reporter when pressed about the Berlin Wall collapsing. “I’m just not an emotional kind of guy.”
In an interview with Jake Tapper, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush, talked about Bush's humility following the end of the Cold War.
Bush would have another victory in the Gulf War, leading the United States to the first truly successful military engagement since Vietnam. He led a successful offensive in Kuwait after Iraqi forces, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded the country. Bush signed off on a ground invasion where allied forces were able to push back Iraqi lines as they moved towards Kuwait. The offensive ended after 100 hours, with Iraqi forces retreating.
Like the Cold War, the ending was swift, with few casualties. The Gulf War gave birth to the network of military bases America now operates across the Persian Gulf supporting troops in Afghanistan and forces fighting against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Again, Bush did not shower in his achievements.
While Bush was known for displaying humility in victory, it was his letter to Bill Clinton that best displays how humble the 41st president truly was.
After losing the 1992 election to Clinton, Bush left a letter to the incoming president. An artifact of political humility, the letter was a passing of the torch, wishing Clinton the best.
“I wish you great happiness here,” Bush wrote. “I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described. 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."
“You will be our President when you read this note,” he continued (underlining “our”). “I wish you well. I wish your family well."
“Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you," he ended.
“Good Luck — George”
Bush's letter on January 20, 1993, is a lesson on grace in defeat. In a world where divisive rhetoric and vitriol rule Washington, he showed us that humanity and civility still exist in politics.
George H. W. Bush was not a perfect president. He had his ups and down, trials and tribulations. He ran one of the nastiest races in American history when he took on Michael Dukakis in 1988. His "Read my lips: no new taxes" phrase will go down in infamy. His failure to win re-election will be scrutinized by many. But one thing is certain: George H. W. Bush served the people through nobility and dignity, the likes of which we will likely never see again.
Following the Cold War, Bush brought the nation together through his vision of a kinder, gentler America. He accomplished this feat again on Wednesday, following a service in Washington. His funeral brought present and past presidents together in the same room. Let's hope his message of civility in an era of bitter division continues.
Godspeed, 41. Mission Complete.
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