Remembering George H.W. Bush since the Journey of my First Vote: Thoughts on Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Service, and Community.
I have done a great deal of contemplating since George H.W. Bush passed on to another world this past week. When he ran for President in 1988 it was the first election I had the privilege to vote in, having just turned eighteen a few months earlier. My Grandfather had been in elected office for my entire life so walking in parades, wearing buttons, and placing political yard signs was second nature. That fall I had just gone off to college at Eastern Illinois University and was experiencing all the transition that come from being away from home for the first time.
It was announced that the Bush/Quayle ticket would be making a campaign stop in Charleston. I remember skipping class to attend. There is nothing quite like seeing the political process up close and personal. I cast my first ever Presidential vote for candidate George Herbert Walker Bush. I felt like I was a real grown up by performing my civic duty for the first time. Time has flown by since then and so have many elections, including seven for President of the United States. Election Day is still like a holiday for me. The world has changed, for the better in some ways and worse in other ways, but that day never gets old for me and I hope it never does. That was thirty years ago.
So when George H.W. Bush died Friday it ended an era for me personally. His presidency really marked the beginning of my adult life. I can to this day recall when he announced that we going into war in the Gulf. I was twenty one and was unsure if I was going to be drafted, while sitting with my floor on the first floor of Douglas Hall, taking it all in. I will never forget it.
Since that Election Day when George H. W. Bush was chosen the 41st President of the United States I have had quite a ride personally. A great job working with people I love. A community that I am proud to call home. Two college degrees, three dogs, and a marriage. Not to mention numerous travels and experiences I could never have ever imagined. I have owned a cool car and live in a house that I don’t deserve. I have more loyal friends than should be legal and a family that has always loved and supported me in any endeavor. I have truly had a George Bailey type of life and it can be marked through this American Hero and his journey from the White House--- until this past Friday
I understand not everyone voted for or even agreed with everything, or anything about George Bush, but taking politics out of it, I feel like there has been a little healing (even if for a brief period of time) to watch a much divided country honor a man that many consider a patriot. I have not grown tired of listening about the importance of friendship and loyalty (traits I very much value) in life. I love hearing about his family and his seventy plus year marriage to Barbara. I am glad he will be reunited with her and his daughter Robin, who was taken too soon by leukemia. I have loved the poetry of his service dog Sully watching dutifully by his casket, knowing that he was the President who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Waiting a fitting exclamation mark. I enjoyed watching him reach across the aisle to the man that ended his political career and befriend him to do great things in acts of charity post presidency. I have no words for watching his old political rival Bob Dole be lifted from a wheel chair to give him one last salute. Those men truly were from the greatest generation (how we will miss them when they are all gone).
I loved his energy and zest for life. His role modeling of humility is a lesson for all of us. Did he get things wrong? You bet he did. Did he have flaws? Probably just as many as the rest of us. He also did a ton of good things in a very tough old world. His passing reminds all of us to take inventory and contemplate the importance of service, community, family, friendship, loyalty, and country. I know I have certainly been deep in thought on those topics this week.
So I will double down and try to make my community and university a little better place for those in it. I will try to visit my brother and sisters more, and tell friends that I love them when I have the opportunity. I am going to attempt to write more hand written notes letting those I care for know how much I appreciate them. I am going to try and live life so that when it is my time to go I will know that I left it all out there on the field and that it was a “Parting well made”.
Thank you for your service, humility, and caring. You are a true role model. God bless you and rest easy President Bush.