As Americans, one of our most important, solemn duties is to honor our great heroes and patriots as we lay them to rest. On November 30, 2018, President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, passed on from this life surrounded by some of the people he loved most in this world. He was a great leader and a truly good man, and our country will be forever shaped by his legacy.
George H.W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924, to Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. He graduated from high school on his 18th birthday and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming one of the youngest naval aviators. In September of 1943, George Bush was assigned to the squadron that would end up being victorious in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest air battles of World War II.
A year later, junior Lieutenant Bush piloted one of the four planes that attacked the Japanese on Chichijima. His plane was shot down, and he was stranded for hours in an inflated raft before being rescued by a U.S. submarine. Between 1943-1944, Bush flew 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in September of 1945, one month after Japan’s surrender.
During his final year of naval service, George Bush married Barbara Pierce, and they had six children together, five of which are still living. Their second child and oldest daughter Robin passed away at age three from leukemia. At the time of Barbara’s death earlier this year, the couple had been married for 73 years, the longest presidential marriage in American history by nearly 20 years.
Upon receiving his military discharge, George Bush enrolled at Yale University where he continued his remarkable leadership track by serving as his fraternity’s president and captain of the university’s baseball team. After graduating, he moved his family to West Texas where he became very successful in the oil industry.
In 1966, George Bush was elected to serve Texas’ Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1968, and then unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 1970. In 1971, George Bush was appointed by President Richard Nixon to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations. During his impressive career, he also served as the U.S. Liaison to China and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Bush was President Ronald Reagan’s Vice President from 1981-1989. He succeeded Reagan as President in 1989 and completed one term, losing his reelection bid to former President Bill Clinton in 1993.
While President George H.W. Bush’s resume is certainly impressive, it’s not his professional achievement that will stand out in the hearts and minds of Americans for generations to come. President Bush was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was also a dedicated public servant who placed significant emphasis on volunteering as a way to improve American communities.
He often used the “thousand points of light” theme to describe the power American citizens have to solve problems. In his 1989 inaugural address, President Bush said, “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good.” Four years later, he offered an update to the country on the Points of Light Movement, saying, “Points of light are the soul of America. They are ordinary people who reach beyond themselves to touch the lives of those in need, bringing hope and opportunity, care and friendship. By giving so generously of themselves, these remarkable individuals show us not only what is best in our heritage but what all of us are called to become.”
President George H.W. Bush lived his life as a shining example of these words he spoke. He is truly among what is “best in our heritage.” President Bush gave our country the very best of himself, and thereby inspired countless Americans to voluntarism and public service. May we never forget his outstanding leadership and his remarkable legacy. I hope you will join me in keeping the entire Bush family in your prayers as our country mourns the passing of their loved one.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.