Across the country, Americans are mourning the loss of President George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, who passed away on Nov. 30, 2018, at age 94. President Bush was an extraordinary man who exemplified everyday American values: faith, family and country. He married Barbara Pierce after World War II and together they had six children: George, Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. He and Barbara were married for 73 years when she passed away in April of this year.
President Bush was a warrior, diplomat, peacemaker, leader and public servant. He served in many different capacities during his more than 40 years in public service. He was a young naval aviator who fought in World War II, a two-term congressman from Texas, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president under President Reagan before he was elected president. He valued public service and has said, “Any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” He shared that sense of duty with others through his Points of Light Foundation which promotes volunteerism and giving back to our communities.
As a World War II veteran, President Bush was a member of the Greatest Generation. He was a man of integrity who governed during times of both war and peace. The decisions he made have had a lasting global impact. When the Soviet Union was collapsing, we were worried about the threat of war and what they would do with their nuclear weapons. President Bush decided to meet with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to find a solution where peace could prevail. That is a testament to President Bush’s leadership, demeanor and diplomatic skills.
Leaders can and should learn from other leaders, and President Bush’s leadership has inspired countless men and women to give back to their communities in a leadership capacity. I remember attending a speech that then-Vice President Bush gave in Pierre at T.F. Riggs High School when he was running for the presidency. He took dozens of questions from the audience, answered them thoughtfully and thoroughly and treated everyone at the event with respect. Rather than trying to highlight the divisions between himself and his opponent, he spoke with optimism about the future of our country. He reminded us that as Americans we have much more in common than what divides us. That message has had a real impact on me and the way in which I seek to lead.
While George H. W. Bush served as leader of the most powerful country in the world, at his core he was no different than many South Dakotans. He was a man of deep faith who put God and family first. He believed fiercely in serving others and giving back. He was also a man who loved the outdoors, like so many of us here in South Dakota. In fact, President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush spent time in the beautiful Black Hills hiking, fishing and visiting Mount Rushmore. He loved spending time on the water, and often took friends, family and neighbors on boat rides even during the later years of his life. But most of all, he enjoyed spending time with his beloved wife, Barbara, and their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
George H.W. Bush is one of just 45 people throughout our 242 year history elected to serve as the leader of the United States of America. He leaves behind a lasting legacy and lifelong lessons which we can all strive to achieve. Jean and I continue to keep the Bush family in our prayers as the nation joins together to honor the incredible life of our 41st president.