Remembering President George H.W. Bush


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Stella Asmerom

On Nov. 30 former president George H.W. Bush died at the age of 94. Bush served as President of the United States from 1989 to 1993, and he was the last president to have served in war.

Bush joined the military at the age of 18 immediately after high school. Inspired by the attack on Pearl Harbor, he trained as a naval aviator for the Navy. His heroism was exemplified in 1944 when he was shot down near the Japanese island Chichi Jima. Out of the eight other men who were similarly shot down, Bush was the only one to survive after avoiding capture in a life raft. Bush returned to active service soon after, and  he was honorably discharged in 1945 going  on attend Yale University.

Bush first entered the public sphere in earnest after founding his own oil company in Texas. He soon transitioned to politics after winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966. In the nearly two and a half decades he spent in politics prior to running for president, Bush served in a variety of high-profile positions, many relating to foreign policy. He was the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, and the Vice President of the United States under President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Bush also briefly served as the Director of Central Intelligence (CIA).

Given his extensive experience in foreign policy, Bush gained the most notoriety for his international exploits while president. Among other accomplishments, he directed troops in the liberation of Panama from General Manuel Noriega and organized a coalition of countries to evict Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, otherwise known as the Gulf War. Bush also oversaw the decline and fall of the Soviet Union in addition to later aiding in post-Soviet relief measures in the Communist bloc.

Domestically, Bush pushed for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), later finalized under President Bill Clinton. He also signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), preventing discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and the Clean Air Act Amendments, designed to further protect the environment.

Beginning in 1990, however, Bush lost a significant portion of the Republican Party’s support after supporting  a policy of simultaneous federal spending cuts and increased tax rates. He subsequently lost the 1992 election to President Bill Clinton, only serving one term in office.

Despite this defeat, Bush enjoyed a reputation for kindness and honesty on both sides of the aisle.  On Dec. 3, Bush’s casket arrived in Washington D.C., remaining in the Capitol Rotunda for two days before a state funeral at the National Cathedral. He was then laid to rest at his presidential library at Texas A&M University. Bush will be remembered for the decency he instilled into the presidential office and for being, in the words of former president Barack Obama, “a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling.”