Accepting his party's presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush promoted the power of civic engagement by celebrating America's volunteers as "a thousand points of light" advancing the nation's well-being.
For Bush, touting volunteer work was more than mere rhetoric. In what was perhaps the darkest hour in Louisiana's history after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the former president didn't forget the state where he had been chosen by his party to stand for the highest office in the land. Bush joined with former President Bill Clinton, who had defeated his re-election bid in 1992, to raise money for Louisiana's recovery. It's a legacy worth remembering in the wake of Bush's death Friday at 94.
Bush began his lifelong sense of service to his country as the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy. He was shot down over the Pacific in 1944 before his 21st birthday.
He wasn't one to dodge tough challenges, and the decisions he made in office are looking better all the time. Bush took a huge political hit in agreeing to a budget and tax deal, but it is widely recognized now as stabilizing the country’s finances. Ultimately, it was Clinton who reaped the benefits.
Compromise was not a dirty word to Bush.
His management of foreign affairs was a case study in deep knowledge of our nation’s interests and collaboration with our allies across the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s brutal occupation of Kuwait were challenges that the former CIA director and student of world affairs seemed born to handle as president.
Collaboration was not a dirty word to Bush, either.
His remarkable brood includes former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Public service has been part of the family brand.
The Bushes, stung by the current president’s insults to Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential campaign, are certainly not counted among the fans of the new populist era in the Republican Party. After all, George H.W. Bush left a life of Connecticut privilege for business in Texas, raising a family and doing the hard work of building his party there. He was not a dilettante in politics or policy.
His version of the GOP should not pass with him.
We hope there will be reflection on the values that animated Bush to pass on the easy life that he could have had to choose a more difficult path to make America greater and safer in the dangerous world in which he served the nation as president.
Louisiana, in particular, owes him a debt of gratitude.