• 20
  • Dec
George H. W. Bush 1924 - 2018

It has been just over one week since the burial of president George H. W. Bush. Admittedly, I spent a great deal of time in front of the television watching the funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. followed a day later by the train ride in a specially built and painted locomotive that brought his casket to his presidential library in College Station, Texas. For me, it was deeply moving to weigh and consider his life at such a pivotal moment in history.

I’m a child of the 1980s. I grew up in an era when the President was Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush was his trusty Vice President. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was the leader of Canada. It was in those years the iron curtain and communism were beginning to crumble, globalism was starting to take shape, and the future looked promising. When George Bush became president in 1988 his leadership really shone through. I recall very clearly when Saddam Hussein invaded the country of Kuwait. Those were unnerving days. I was, at that time, an aircraft mechanic working for a defense contractor in Edmonton, Canada. Specifically, I was fixing C – 130 Hercules transports. I was working double shifts in order to get the aircraft overhauled and ready to be sent to the Middle East.

It’s in difficult times that a person’s leadership ability it Is confirmed or denied. In the case of President Bush, the gulf war proved but he was the perfect leader for that time. I believe leaders are made not born. Though I’m sure there are many that would suggest that his privilege background proves that he was a born leader, one must realize that a person still needs to develop leadership skills; what they know, what they do and how they relate to others in regard to mutually beneficial goals. History is full of “leaders” that had skill but lacked knowledge or relational ability. That will be a topic of an upcoming blog. Thus, we are required to ask, “what is it made George Bush to be such a great leader?”

Firstly, he was a man of character. What was very clear, not only during the accolades spoken at the funeral, but also in his years of his service, was that he was a man greatly appreciated; a man above reproach. A rather odd sort for the beltway where many people have a lust for power, and will achieve it at any cost. He was truly a bipartisan, put others before himself, and in everything, kept his word.

Secondly, George Bush was himself a veteran. Few people know is that in the early years of World War II, George Bush was going to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to fly in the war against Germany. However, by the time he was ready to enlist, war broke out between the United States and Japan. George Bush having a strong sense of public service enlisted in the US Navy and was the only survivor on his aircraft after being shot down. No doubt the cost of war and what it meant in regard to freedoms many of us enjoy today was at the forefront of his mind on the eve of the gulf war.

Thirdly, George Bush was a keen learner. He attended Yale university and achieve a degree in economics. Following university, he was widely involved business and governments leveraging many opportunities to benefit the American people and came to be known as having the best resume in Washington. Despite such a privileged background he was a very humble family man and person of faith.

I reminded in such times that a funeral must be a time of personal reflection. Funerals are not so much for the deceased as they are for those left behind. Reflection of one’s own life in light of the departed is one of the healthiest exercises any of us can do. In Ecclesiastes 7:2 the teacher, or more accurately Qohelet, says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay to heart.” Certainly, for me, and I hope others, that the takeaway each of us has in reflecting upon the life of President George H.W. Bush, his character, sense of service, and his desire to learn, are the very traits necessary for anybody to be in a position of leadership regardless of where the leadership position is.

It might be thought by some of you reading this blog that all I am doing is regurgitating what was said of President Bush on the television. In reality there’s a bit of a personal connection. I never met President Bush, but my grandparents did. My grandfather was formerly President of the Army Navy Air Force Veterans of Canada. It was in his role as a veteran’s leader that he was invited to participate in veterans’ gatherings in the United States. It was that one of those gatherings that my grandparents had an opportunity to meet President Bush. It was in fact their recollection of President Bush that really gave me an appreciation for who this man was. Some years later my grandparents later met George W. Bush and Sen. Bob Dole at other conventions, men who spoke very eloquently of the elder statesman. We have lost a great leader but his example I’m sure will be an inspiration for leaders of the future.