It was the fall of 1992, and I was a freshman at what was probably a 99% conservative republican college in Springfield, MO. President George H. W. Bush and VP (and fellow Hoosier) Dan Quayle were up against the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, and Tennessee Senator, Al Gore. I didn’t go, but just accross the street at the local fairgrounds, one of the republican candidates was making a campaign stop (I can’t remember who as I was unable to attend). My soon to be brother in law, Eric Sedmak, was kind enough to pick up a yard sign for me and I remember placing it in my dorm window. I’m sure it swung many a student to vote for them.
After the election results came in that election night, I remember some of the guys on my floor vowing to wear all black the next day in mourning. I told them I’d join them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. One of them walked past me on the way to chapel the next day and suggested I was a chicken. I was no chicken…I just didn’t have any black shirts…probably.
It was the first presedential election I really remember ever paying any attention to, so it was with great interest that I dove into President George W. Bush’s book on his dad, President George H. W. Bush, entitled 41: A Portrait of My Father. Now, before any of my left leaning friends (and yes, I do have some) stop reading, let me encourage you to read the book. Whether you agree with his policies or not, the fact of the matter is he really was/is a great man and a great American.
Several things in the book stuck out for me:
FINISHING THE MISSION…At the age of 18 he joined the Navy, and became the youngest naval aviater at the time. While on a mission several years later in 1944 against the Japanese, his plane was hit by flak and caught on fire. He finished his mission, with his plane on fire, then bailed out. Finishing the mission was a driving theme througout his life, which made losing the 1992 election even harder to deal with…he felt he left the mission unfinished.
FAMILY…He genuienly loved his family. You can read the many specifics of this in the book. One of my favorites was when he invited his grandkids to stay at the VP residence at the Naval Observatory the night before a big debate with Governor Michael Dukakis before the 1988 presedential elections. Late in the night, one of President George W’s daughters started crying because some sort of teddy bear was lost. President George H. W. led the search, in the middle of the night, until the thing was found. Do you think Michael Dukakis was doing the same that night?
RELATIONSHIPS…I knew that one of his strengths was foreign relations, but I had no idea how committed/gifted he was to making, building, and maintaining relationships with many people. I’m talking about his writing of thousands of personal letters to people. Even people who were on the other side of politics speak highly of their friendship with him. I wish issues in our current society were a bit less polarizing and we could still practice the discipline of knowing how to agree to disagree, maintaining a level of civility in our relationships. Does the fact that we disagree have to make me your enemy, or you mine? It seems President George H. W. Bush was one who worked hard to maintain relationships with people of all walks, and I appreciate that about him (even if it did lead to the breaking of a promise – “Read my lips, no new taxes.”).
I really enjoyed the book. It was an easy read about a erroneously not so celebrated US President. Loved the personal stories and insight in that the book was written by his son.