George H.W. Bush made America great. This nation is no longer what it once was. We need to Make America Great Again.
In his inaugural address on January 20, 1989, President Bush declared,
America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world. My friends, we have work to do.
For a very short while the country tried to follow the course that H.W. was charting. But as political, social and cultural events evolved over the past two decades, she began straying from herself.
Recently, under the leadership of a new President, America has started to sink into a swamp of selfishness and amorality. Our face is not kinder to our own citizens, and it is unquestionably not gentler to those on and from other shores.
America is adrift. It can rediscover itself by looking at George H.W. Bush. Wednesday, December 5 was declared a national day of mourning. It should be a national day of memory.
A day to remember who George H.W. Bush was. A day to remember him not as our President, but as a man of action rather than words, who lived his life fully and valiantly and in dedication and service to others.
Consider the following:
- Early in WW II, after graduating from high school in June of 1942 at the age of 18, he enrolled in the Navy. About one year later at 19, he became possibly the youngest aviation officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve at that time.
- In September 1944, on a torpedo bombing run in the Japanese islands, his plane was hit by gunfire. He advised his two crewmates to parachute out and to try to reach safety. He stayed with his plane, dropped his bombs, and then parachuted out himself. He managed to find a life raft and was rescued. He received The Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage in this encounter.
- In reflecting upon this incident decades later, in tears, talking about his two comrades in arms from his plane who were not saved, Bush blamed himself and wondered if there was anything that he could have done to bring them home alive.
- Bush put country first. He also put his family first. His love for and devotion to his five children and seventeen grandchildren who survive him, and their respect and love in return, is the stuff of legends. After his death, his son Jeb tweeted, “I already miss the greatest human being I will ever know.” Jenna Bush Hager, his granddaughter, in an Instagram wrote, “…He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart.”
- In a heartfelt handwritten note given to then-rival Bill Clinton just before his inauguration as President on January 20, 1993, former President Bush stated, “…Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
- Along with President Bill Clinton, Bush spearheaded the large humanitarian relief efforts launched after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian ocean and Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.
- Bush celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays by skydiving from an airplane.
- In 2013 at the age of 89, H.W. had his head shaved bald to show solidarity with Patrick, the two-year old son of a secret service agent, who was bald because of his leukemia treatments. The picture of Patrick sitting on Bush’s lap went viral.
- In an interview with his granddaughter Jenna, when she asked about his legacy and how he thought he would be remembered, Bush responded, “I’ve kind of banned the use of the ‘l’ word. I think history will get it right, point out the things I did wrong and perhaps some of the things we did right.”
What George H.W. Bush did might be called old-fashioned. We prefer to call it part of American exceptionalism — a commitment to family, the United States, and the world. This striving to bring us together, and to unite us in pursuit of the common good, rather than turning us against one another and building walls is, should, and must be the essence of patriotism.
George H.W. Bush understood that. If we want America to be America again, we need to understand it as well. The best way to accomplish this is not merely to offer condolences, but to get involved and engaged as concerned and compassionate citizens in initiatives to make America better — to make America kinder and gentler.
There are thousands of things that can be done to make a difference. There are thousands of large and small acts that can be undertaken that will renew the American spirit and its heart and soul.
As George H.W. Bush stated, in 1988, when accepting his party’s presidential nomination, groups that promote service to others are “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” America and the world need those points of light today, tomorrow and forever more.
In their quixotic song “America,” penned in 1968, Simon and Garfunkel wrote: “They’ve all come to look for America.” With George H.W. Bush’s death, they and we need look no further. We have found it.
George H.W. Bush is no longer here with us physically, but his presence has never been stronger. In memory of who he was and what our nation once was, we need to Make America Great Again.