Today sees the start of the funeral arrangements for George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States who passed away last week at the age of 94. Others will provide a far more fitting eulogy for this man who began his life of service to the country at the age of eighteen when he joined the air force, served in the military and then in several very significant roles in public service including both as a Vice President and President of the country. However, I would draw attention to two observations that I feel are important.
Firstly, and yes I know in politics its unwise to say never, but I don’t think we will ever see another President of the United States from what is referred to as the ‘greatest generation.’ The moving tribute of Senator Bob Dole to President Bush reminds us that there were others of that ‘greatest generation,’ serving in both the House and the Senate at the time President Bush occupied the White House. I believe the shared experience of those who served their country in the military gave them a unique perspective on the need to work together, both within their respective parties and across the aisle that allowed a lot to be achieved for the country as a whole. I am not sure that I would describe them, as some have, as gentler years in politics, but I would concur with the sentiment that they were undoubtedly more collaborative years.
Secondly, when asked what his legacy would be, President Bush, then well into his eighties, said it would be for others to decide. He said that history would look back and see some of the mistakes he made and some of the things he got right. A man of humility and great faith, raised as George was in the Episcopal Church, George Bush knew where his strength and his motivation came from. He was, after all, a public servant, a role he took very seriously, and that meant sometimes making tough decisions that ultimately put the needs of the country ahead of any personal need or gain that he could make for himself. That humility and sense of duty is a quality that has not been seen in the same way since he left office and serves as a great tribute to the man and his legacy.
If we turn to the scriptures, we can find lots of examples of men and women who have made a significant impact on their country and among their people. None more so than King David, a man with huge flaws in his character as well as a deep devotion to his God. In this season of Advent, we are reminded that Jesus, the one who would come and have the most significant impact of all, the salvation for the world, came from the line of David. For all that President Bush fulfilled in his lifetime of service and as a family man, we perhaps should note that his love of his wife Barbra and all his children and their offspring was but a limited outward manifestation of the love that God has for all his children. For me George Bush, like many men and women before him, proves that God can and does use people from all walks of life, who have flaws and failings, to builds the kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ I pray that President Bush, as with all the departed, may rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Shalom to you my friend,