Today, on this National Day of Mourning for President George H.W. Bush, we reflect not only on what he has done for our country, but the extraordinary man he was. Although I did not personally know him, having been on this earth during his extraordinary lifetime has been a great honor. As our president, he was a very respectable man, but he did so much more. He served our country as our vice president, congressman from Texas, CIA director, ambassador and — more importantly — as a father and a friend.
President Bush wasted no time in answering the call to serve our country, he joined the Navy right after he graduated high school after the attack on Pearl Harbor. President Bush will forever be known as the youngest naval aviator of World War II, when he joined the Navy at age 19; and even after he was shot down, he continued to serve on behalf of our nation. When he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism and achievement.
I personally would have liked for him to be my commander-in-chief while I served during Vietnam because of his experience and knowledge of the battlefield. He took a self-financed visit to Southeast Asia to tour the U.S. positions during the Vietnam War; but most importantly, he was proud of our nation at a time that many were not. President Bush is one of the greatest examples of why we must remain committed to taking care of our service members and veterans.
It is also well known that President George H.W. Bush had a warm and caring heart, best exemplified by his actions over the years. During his time in the White House, he recognized more than 1,000 people for making a difference in their communities through his Daily Point of Light Award. This movement, and his term “a thousand points of light,” gave new life to volunteerism, which inspired so many to do good in their communities and across the country.
The president also joined President Clinton in a disaster relief partnership after the tsunami devastated Southeast Asia in 2004. In 2011, President Bush rightfully received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in recognition for his public service.
President Bush was also a friend to many and he knew how to have fun. I remember Dana Carvey, who impersonated him on Saturday Night Live, ended up being a good friend to the family. Dana spoofed him, but not in a way that was disrespectful. Both the president and the first lady enjoyed Dana’s impersonation of him so much that they invited Dana to the White House; from then on the two became good friends.
President Bush was the same man whether the camera was on or off, and he exemplified what is was to be a gentleman to others and his wife. It has been an honor for me to serve in the same House, “the People’s House,” that the president served in early in his career.
I hope many will use President George H.W. Bush’s life as an example for their own, for he was a rare public servant that I hope inspires more people to follow his example in the future. My wife and I continue to extend our deepest sympathies to his family during this time of mourning, and I know our country will never forget the great legacy of 41.