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Sen. Rob Portman recalls George H.W. Bush in Senate floor speech

December 4, 2018

Sen. Rob Portman recalls George H.W. Bush in Senate floor speech

As thousands of people lined up to pay their last respects to former President George H. W. Bush at the U.S. Capitol, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman took to the Senate floor to deliver a heartfelt tribute to his former boss and mentor.

Portman kicked off a string of tributes to the nation’s 41st president by recounting Bush’s lifetime of service as a World War II Navy pilot, member of Congress, CIA director, ambassador, vice president and president.

“Our country is losing a lifelong patriot, a guiding voice, and really the embodiment of the very best of America,” said Portman, who worked as a White House attorney for Bush, and as his liaison to Congress. “He showed me that you could do this work of public service in politics with honor, dignity and respect. He showed that nice guys can finish first.”

He remembered Bush’s efforts as president to work in a bipartisan manner with Congress, and his role in steering the country through global transitions like the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said Bush resisted calls to give a boastful speech because “he didn’t want to spike the football in the end zone” and wanted to make sure the transition was properly handled.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he involved more than 40 other countries in the Desert Storm military effort to halt the aggression.

He also highlighted the “thousand points of light” foundation that Bush founded because he believed that everybody had a responsibility and opportunity to move the nation to a better and brighter future.

“He was the guiding light as an example for all the rest of us,” Portman said.

Portman also discussed his frequent visits to Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, including a 2015 trip just after Bush fell and broke a bone. Portman decided to give Bush a baseball inscribed to “George H.W. Bush, America’s first baseman” and have it signed by his Senate colleagues. Bush was first baseman for Yale’s baseball team and played in the first-ever College World Series.

Portman said the baseball was covered in signatures so quickly that he had to get a giant get-well card for overflow senators to sign. In the end, 95 did so. Bush was delighted by the gift, Portman recalled, and was especially pleased that it was signed by partisan Democrats like Nevada’s Harry Reid.

“At the close of a great American life, let us honor his legacy by following his example of patriotism and public service,” said Portman. “Godspeed, George Bush.”

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