In a time of demagogues and demonization, I mourn the passing of the decent.
I mourn George H.W. Bush’s death. I mourn the passing of a Gentle Man.
I have the distinct honor of sharing an alma mater with the late President. My wife has the distinct honor of sharing an alma mater with Mrs. Bush.
Go Blue! (Andover)
PQV! (Ashley Hall)
A scion of New England WASPs, noblesse oblige remained as much a Biblical mandate as the following:
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. Luke 12:48.
I have used the first person pronoun too much already; he would have eschewed such usage.
He lived the life of privilege and selfless devotion of faith, family, country.
He quoted his mama saying he should not be a braggart.
He loved his wife.
He never forgot the horror of losing a child.
He raced his boats in the waters around Walkers Point in Maine.
My state’s Electors cast their votes for him in 1992. It did not matter.
“Read my lips. No new taxes.”
Then, he raised taxes.
Being right might be different from being electable.
He lost his re-election bid thanks in part to the bad optics. He seemed to be out of touch, but he knew exactly what was going on in the world. Let us not forget the interjection of that third-party imp, Ross Perot.
There are a large number of us Andover graduates who remain honored to share Phillips Academy with 41. There a large number of us Andover graduates who were not and are not honored by the same.
In 1989, President Bush came to campus for a Convocation to commemorate the 200th anniversary of President George Washington’s visit to campus.
Those of us dubbed student leaders were invited to a reception with President. I’m still not sure who picked us, but I qualified due to my leading the Community Service program and being a Head Tour Guide.
When answering a question from the President, I replied “Yes, Sir.” He immediately said, “Southerner? I’ve always loved the South. Part of my mother’s family is from Virginia.”
Turns out Yancey family blood runs in me and the President. Distant cousins through Virginians. I wish I had known that in 1989. Ingratiating without obsequiousness.
After the reception, we took our places before the stage out on the Great Lawn.
Prior to the President coming to the stage, other students and faculty marched in protest down Chapel Avenue holding banners peacefully disagreeing with the President and his policies. Everyone assembled clapped for the protesters.
Mr. Bush and his handlers then approached the stage from the opposite direction on campus. As we had all clapped for the protestors, we then all clapped for the President as much as we had clapped for the protesters.
There had been weeks of controversy about the location, duration, substance of the protests.
So New England.
I remember Mr. Bush standing at the podium. The first words out of his mouth, were, “It’s always great to be back!”
He pointed to the spot on campus where he heard the declaration of World War II.
He planted a tree.
He read poems.
He spoke to us about our opportunities and education.
I remember that it was cold out, but there was no snow on the ground.
I remember being proud to have a President on campus who was one of us. I remember being proud of my friends who chose to protest with the full conviction of youth. None has such conviction.
I know that I shall cry as the priest or bishop opens the service tomorrow at the National Cathedral with these familiar words from the Book of Common Prayer:
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
George H.W. Bush knew these words.
He knew his Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
Complete Gentle Man.