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DANIEL VAUGHAN: George H.W. Bush – The Greatest of Americans
There are very few men in history whose impact on our world surpasses all the praise, respect, and admiration they receive when they pass away. George H.W. Bush is one of those men.
To call George H W. Bush merely a great man understates his life.
Bush was born in 1924, and at the age of 18, he opted to join the U.S. Navy after the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor. In a year, by 1943, he had already earned his wings as a pilot and was flying missions — making him the youngest Navy pilot in the fleet.
The decision to volunteer for the Navy at just 18 marked the beginning of Bush’s long and storied career serving his country. As the Department of Defense recently described him:
From being the Navy’s youngest pilot in the early days of World War II to serving as Commander in Chief in the last days of the Cold War and through Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, President Bush’s five decades of defending the American people and American principles have few rivals in our history.
But that biography only focuses on Bush’s accomplishments in war. His tenure as CIA director, which began in 197, might have been one of his most vital roles of service, outside of the presidency. In fact, his performance was so crucial in restoring public and private trust in the CIA that they renamed the agency’s main building in Langley, VA after him: it became the George Bush Center for Intelligence in 1997.
In a letter to both Bush and the CIA celebrating the decision, then-President Bill Clinton wrote:
When you assumed your duties as Director of Central Intelligence in January 1976, the nation had just endured one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Many Americans had lost faith in government. Many asked whether the CIA should continue to exist.
As Director, you accomplished a great deal. You restored morale and discipline to the Agency while publicly emphasizing the value of intelligence to the nation’s security. You also restored America’s trust in the CIA and the rest of the Intelligence Community.
Many of the accolades you’ve been reading of Bush in the news since his death over the weekend were also said in 1997, during that building’s dedication ceremony. The respect and admiration Americans of all stripes had for the man was immense, real, and profoundly deep.
He impacted the lives of everyone around him for the better.
But he wasn’t just great.
Tom Brokaw is fond of calling the generation that came of age during WWII the “Greatest Generation.” When he wrote his original book entitled the same, Brokaw wrote to Bush to tell him that he had plans to put Bush in that book. Brokaw said Bush resisted, but eventually gave way. It was only at the opening of the WWII Memorial in Washington that Bush, looking around at his fellow veterans, told Brokaw that he was glad to be included.
And that may be the most stunning part of looking back at the towering life and career of “Bush 41,” who was a member of a generation that we consider to be one of the greatest in our history. Bush set himself apart and rose to the top of that generation.
He is one of the greatest of the greatest.
His family, the ultimate legacy any man can leave on this earth, also speaks to his unswerving character, integrity, and greatness. His son George, the 43rd President of the United States, called his father a “man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.”
Similarly, in a eulogy for George Washington, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee said that his close friend was “first in war[,] first in peace[,] and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”
George Herbert Walker Bush lived up to Washington’s towering example and provided a similar standard to us in a new century. And he offered all of that with such a transcendent grace and class.
Our country is impoverished of men like George H.W. Bush — every leader since then simply pales in comparison.
Rest in peace, George H.W. Bush. A far better man than this country deserved, he exemplified Americans at our very best.
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