Lifetime of service remembered
He was, in all likelihood, the last of his kind.
Former President George H.W. Bush died Friday at age 94.
There is a French term — “noblesse oblige” — referring to the idea people who have inherited wealth or who have had success early in early life have an obligation to help others.
That was certainly true of both Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin), of the three Kennedys (John, Robert and Teddy), of the Rockefellers (Nelson, Jay and Winthrop) and of the Bushes (George H.W. and George). They were people who devoted themselves to a lifetime of service on a national level.
George H.W. Bush had served the public in many different ways. He was the last president to have served in World War II. His Avenger Torpedo Bomber was shot down by the Japanese. He was the only member of a crew of three to survive.
Feeling he was on borrowed time, he determined to make the most of it. He served in Congress, was the Ambassador to the United Nations, was this country’s envoy to China and head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He also hailed from a political era when compromise still was possible. He had called Ronald Reagan’s Supply Side Economics “Voodoo Economics.” Yet, when it came time for the GOP to close ranks, Reagan offered and Bush accepted the nomination as vice president.
Later, Bush won election in his own right as president by dramatically proclaiming “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Once in office, though, he met the Democrats halfway — raising taxes. Americans like to say they favor compromise. They would get more of it if they actually rewarded such behavior with their votes. Instead, Bush became a one-term president.
It was a dramatic one-term. His four years saw the coalition that liberated Kuwait and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. On no other watch, since the end of World War II, had so many people gained so much real freedom so quickly. Bush’s approval rating once reached an astonishing 89 percent.
Similar to Jimmy Carter, he became a beloved ex-president, raising money for charity and crossing political divides.
He served for a lifetime and left more admirers behind than when he started. Few in that highest of offices ever have done so well in that regard.