God had much in store for the life of George H. W. Bush
With all that has already been written following the death of former president George Herbert Walker Bush, there can be little more to say to enhance the scope and gravity of tribute to such a person.
But we at News-Sentinel.com are compelled to add our signature to the guestbook of those who wish to recognize the life of a great statesman and great American.
The body of the 41st president, who died Friday at age 94, has been lying in state in the Capitol for public visitation through today’s invitation-only funeral service at Washington National Cathedral. Bush will be buried Thursday at his presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
Bush led a remarkable life. Son of a senator, inspired by the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday on June 12, 1942, and became its youngest aviator.
He piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avengers that attacked the Japanese installations on the island of Chichijima in the Pacific Ocean, and was shot down on Sept. 2, 1944. He and one other crew member bailed out of their burning plane. The other man’s parachute didn’t open, but Bush waited for four hours in a rubber raft in the ocean until he was rescued by a U.S. submarine, while U.S. fighter planes circled overhead to protect him. Many others who had been shot down in that attack were executed on the island by Japanese soldiers, prompting Bush to ask why he had been spared and “what did God have for me?”
What God had for him was a long career of service to his country. After running his own oil company in Texas, he entered politics, winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966, then becoming a senator, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, head of the U.S. Liaison Office in China and director of the CIA.
He decided to run for president in 1980. Ronald Reagan won the primary elections, but he named Bush as his running mate in the general election where they defeated Democrat incumbents Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Bush served two terms as vice-president under Reagan.
Bush then ran for president following Reagan’s second term, winning against Michael Dukakis in 1988, serving from 1989-1993. Bush was the first sitting vice president to win the White House since Martin Van Buren in 1836.
But Bush failed to win a second term in a race against Democrat Bill Clinton.
He became the first president since John Adams to have a son (John Quincy Adams) win the presidency, when George W. Bush won the first of his two terms in 2000.
The George H.W. Bush presidency has been viewed as successful in foreign affairs but disappointing in domestic affairs.
The two greatest successes of his presidency were winning the first Persian Gulf War, and bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end. But those achievements were not enough to overshadow the economic recession, and in 1992, the American public voted for change.
Bush 41’s presidency was especially significant for Hoosiers, in that his pick for vice president was Huntington native Dan Quayle, who summed up the kind of man Bush was in a commentary published in the Wall Street Journal:
“He was the kind of person who inspired loyal friendship even without the title, someone whose good opinion you wanted because of the kind of man he was. Our 41st president was the most honorable, decent and capable of gentlemen — as close to the ideal of the office as anyone in our lifetimes. If you’re looking for a role model, I told my children when they were growing up, start with George Bush.”