America’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush, passed away on Friday at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 94.
Prior to taking on the presidency, Mr. Bush was a World War II veteran. He was also a congressman, director of the CIA, an ambassador to the United Nations and China, and a two-term vice president in the Ronald Reagan administration.
Despite all those credentials, colleagues and friends say the man they knew was a humble, modest, and unfailingly polite friend, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. They also say he was a devoted husband to his wife Barbara. The two were married for 73 years. She passed away in April of this year.
George H.W. Bush was elected president as a Republican in 1988. During his single term as America’s Commander-in-Chief, the world changed dramatically. The Cold War came to an end. The Soviet Union dissolved. The Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany were reunited, and democratic nations sprung up across Eastern Europe. When Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded the small but oil-rich Kuwait, President Bush responded by assembling a U.S.-led military coalition to quickly and effectively free Kuwait.
The resulting Gulf War was a successful offensive, conducted with few casualties. However, President Bush later admitted that he stopped short of completion. In hindsight, he felt he should have removed Hussein from power in Iraq at that time. His own son, 43rd president George W. Bush, would inherit that responsibility without the same rapid results.
At home, the president signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. It banned workplace discrimination against people with disabilities. The act also required improvements to access to public places and transportation for the disabled. President Bush said he wanted to make the United States a “kinder, gentler” nation. He called on Americans to volunteer their time serving one another. He is remembered for predicting that the result of such volunteer charity would create “a thousand points of light.”
A year after the successful 1991 Gulf War, however, an economic crisis at home in America fueled discontent with Mr. Bush’s administration. He broke a campaign pledge that he would not raise taxes. A perception grew that due to his family wealth, Mr. Bush was out of touch with the ordinary citizen. He lost his bid for re-election. America voted Bill Clinton into office as the country’s 42nd president after he promised to address economic issues first. Clinton claimed to understand poverty. He told voters, “I feel your pain.”
Air Force One was sent to Texas over the weekend. It transported the former president’s casket from Texas to Washington, D.C. Mr. Bush’s body will lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda. The public is invited to pay their respects from Monday evening through Wednesday morning.
(President George H.W. Bush talks to reporters at the White House in 1991, with his advisors present in the background. AP Photo)