George Herbert Walker Bush died Friday night. He was the last of the Greatest Generation to serve as President. His administration was the culmination of nearly 40 years of American hegemony which led to the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Born into family wealth, he attended Yale where he played baseball, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, went into the oil business and then into public service.
He was a Congressman, representing west Houston. After Congress, he served as Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Envoy to China and Director of Central Intelligence. He ran for President in 1980 and when Ronald Reagan become the GOP nominee, he asked Bush to serve as his Vice-President which he did for eight years. Bush ascended to the Presidency in 1988 for one term.
Of the political acts Bush engaged in, none for me was more powerful than his vote for passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination in housing. This vote went against the wishes of the majority of voters in his district. Bush’s son Neil said of an angry town hall meeting, “His constituents were, many of them were irate and so he addressed the crowd at a particular gathering that we all attended. And he did it with such dignity, and I just will never forget how proud I was.”
By tradition, departing President’s leave a personal letter for their successor. President Bush’s hand-written note to President-Elect Bill Clinton sums up the character of Bush as well as any other single document.
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
So here’s to George H. W. Bush, the last of the gentlemen politicians who strove for the country’s greater good.
Tom Fox is the Compliance Evangelist™. He leads the social media discussion on compliance with his award-winning blog, The FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog and eight podcasts; The FCPA Compliance Report, Compliance into the Weeds, Everything Compliance, This Week in FCPA, 12 O’clock High-a Podcast on Business Leadership, Compliance Report-International Edition, Countdown to GDPR and Across the Board.
He’s the author of 12 books on compliance, ethics and leadership. His latest Amazon bestseller, “The Compliance Handbook” is available here.