The late 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, who passed away on November 30 in Houston, Texas, at the age of 94 years, was buried on December 6 at his presidential Library in College Station, Texas. Americans lined the routes to pay their final respects and bid farewell to a man whose life epitomised service, patriotism and prudence. Tributes flowed from far and near acknowledging Bush as one of the great presidents of the United States.
Bush’s service to America began early in his life. As a teenager, he suspended plans for his university education after the Japanese attacked the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in 1941. Thus on his 18th birthday, the first day he was eligible to serve, Bush enlisted in the Navy and became one of its youngest aviators. He flew 58 missions from aircraft carriers until he was shot down by the Japanese in 1944. Lieutenant Bush left the Navy at the end of the war with several honours, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. He then went to Yale University for his education, after which he moved with his family to Texas where he started a business in the oil and gas industry from which he became rich and, indeed, by his 40th birthday, he was already a millionaire.
George Bush and his wife for 71 years, Barbara, had six children. Two of the boys, George and Jeb, rose to be governors of two of America’s most powerful states, Texas and Florida. George went even further and was elected in 2000 as the 43rd president.
In 1963, Bush became the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, and the next year he unsuccessfully ran for the US Senate. Two years later, he won a seat in the US House of Representatives and served two terms from where he launched his eventful political career. A second senate bid also failed but the Nixon administration appointed him as US Special Representative to the United Nations in 1971.
During the momentous Watergate scandals, he headed the Republican National Committee and was influential in persuading President Nixon that Republican support for him had dried up forcing the embattled president to eventually resign. He became the Chief of the US Liaison Office to China in 1974, then the highest level of diplomatic relationship between the US and China. In January 30, 1976, Bush was appointed the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He ran for the presidency in 1989 but was defeated in the primaries by Governor Ronald Reagan who, emerging as the Republican nominee, then named Bush as his running mate. When Reagan won a landslide victory against President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Bush became vice president, a position he occupied for the eight years of the Reagan presidency. His experience and exposure in the various positions he had occupied made him, perhaps, the most experienced vice president in US history. His tenure at the UN and China and eight years as vice president provided him an awesome resume which reflected in his being so much at home in executing foreign policy. His tentativeness in domestic policy led to his inability to win re-election.
Bush understood global politics and world leaders better than most. This reflected in the unprecedented grand alliance he was able to build and maintain during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-91. He envisioned a new world order which is free from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace, a world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle.
Bush was president at a crucial period when the world was in ferment. His steady hand ensured that the Soviet Union disintegrated gracefully and without tragic incidents. When the Berlin Wall fell, he let the Germans take the limelight. East-West relations were managed with prudence, caution and moderation leading to a smooth transition from the Cold War into a new era. Bush left a template of a life of service and Nigerians, who wish to serve, can look at his stewardship as a good example of selfless service to God and country.