Obituary: George HW Bush

9 Dec 2018

George Herbert Walker Bush, born 12th June 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts, could be described as many things: a family man and public servant the first that come to mind. His was a life of service to his country: in the Navy, as a member of the House of Representatives, as the Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the United Nations, Vice President and then of course, President of the United States. 


Born to Prescott and Dorothy Bush in 1924, George Bush was 18 when he entered the United States Navy during World War Two, following the attack on Pearl Harbour. It was here his life of public service began. He trained as a naval aviator and after a ten month course, was assigned to his first ship. At 19, he was the youngest naval aviator at the time. In 1944, he married Barbara Pierce, and they remained married for 73 years until her death earlier this year.


His run for National Office began in 1966, when he stood for Texas' 7thDistrict.  Standing against the Democrat Frank Briscoe, Bush won 57% of the votes, becoming the first Republican Candidate to win the seat.  He won re-election in 1968 before President Nixon asked him to stand for the Senate against a Nixon critic. Bush lost with 46.6% of the votes. But he did go on to serve in the infamous Nixon Administration. Firstly, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  After two years, he stepped down, as the sinking President asked him to serve as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. The President's involvement in Watergate became painstakingly clear and it fell to George HW Bush to toe the fine line of saving the plummeting party he loved while remaining faithful to the President he served. It was he who eventually asked Richard Nixon to tender his resignation for the good of Party and the Country.


Bush’s life dedicated to his nation did not stop there. Under the new Ford Administration, he served in two roles. Firstly, as the US envoy to China. While he was not officially an Ambassador, Bush was seen as one and his 14 months there are widely credited as bolstering American-Chinese relations. The President then brought him back to Washington, to serve as the Director of the CIA. Much like some of his other positions, he took over at a low point for the organisation. This time, the CIA were in the midst of allegations of illegal activities. Bush was able to turn around the reputation of the Agency and improve morale within.  


After a brief return to the private sector and a stint in education, which he is said to have loved, George HW Bush launched a Presidential campaign in 1980. He failed to secure the nomination, losing out to a certain Ronald Reagan, but he was able to secure the nomination for Vice President on the Reagan ticket. They of course won. Bush was a largely quiet but hugely effective Vice President. He forged superb relations with both domestic and international politicians on behalf of the Administration. He unwaveringly supported for eight years, through a period that oversaw the beginning of the end for the Cold War. The two men forged an excellent relationship, particularly after the attempt to assassinate the President, during which Bush stepped in as acting President. During this time, he refused to land Marine One on the South Lawn, saying that was a privilege only available to the President – just more evidence of his unwavering loyalty to those he served.


In 1988, he finally achieved something he had been longing for: the Presidency. Beating Michael Dukakis, George HW Bush was sworn in on the 20thJanuary 1989. His presidency was overshadowed by conflict: both the ending and starting of it. As President, he oversaw the end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall came down under his watch and in 1991 Presidents Bush and Yeltsin marked the end of the Cold War with the US-Russian Partnership. He did of course take America into the Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait. His approval ratings soared after a series of successful attacks. Arab-Israeli peace was also high on his agenda and he used the successful political gains from the Gulf War to jump-start talks. In 1992, George HW Bush sought re-election. His approval ratings and successes remained high. Many refused to run against him until one Governor of Arkansas called Bill Clinton took up the challenge and succeeded, reducing George Bush and his successes to the history books. His letter to his successor has been aired continuously since the news of his death – and rightly so. The letter epitomised him as a person: a man loyal to his country,  who wanted the United States, not his party, to succeed under new leadership.


He retired back to Texas with his family until of course his son was elected in 2001. He passed away on 30thNovember, 7 months after his wife Barbara. Together they had 6 children.


It is often easy to forget George HW Bush and his successes. He oversaw the end to one of the most potentially dangerous conflicts in history. He was quiet and unassuming but loved his nation, serving unwaveringly through thick and thin. The world would be a much better place with more politicians and public servants like Bush: those who take up office to do good by their nation and people, not for arbitrary power. Whatever the outcome, a testament to George HW Bush’s leadership is his remarkable commitment to seeking what was best for the United States and the American people.


Rest in Peace, Mr President.

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