Remembering our 41st president: George H.W. Bush

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I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater.
-George H.W. Bush

It’s a National Day of Mourning as America’s 41st president is laid to rest.

Anyone who knows me knows that the presidency has always fascinated me. Regardless of what we might think about a particular president, we spend years seeing them in the news. They sign legislation that impacts future generations. They make court appointments that influence legal decisions for years to come. They make decisions on foreign policy that impact America’s relations with other nations. I do think the presidency should be respected. It’s often been said that one of the greatest strengths of the American political system is the peaceful transition of power when one presidency ends and another begins.

He was elected president in 1988, after spending two terms as vice president under Ronald Reagan. That was the first time a sitting vice president had been elected president in over 150 years when Martin Van Buren was elected president in 1836. Like George H.W. Bush, Van Buren was also a one-term president.

It’s perhaps a blessing and a curse to be in that situation: people who didn’t like your predecessor won’t like you. There’s a shadow over your administration from your predecessor. People who liked that person might judge you when compared to them, and since it was their popularity that may have helped you, it’s hard to go up.

At the same time, you want to be your own president. None of this is to undermine the accomplishments of our 41st president. Even before becoming president, Bush had already had an illustrious career.

He enlisted in the navy on his 18th birthday and served as a fighter pilot in World War II. After the war, he moved to Texas and became an oil tycoon. He entered politics in the 60s, being elected to the House of Representatives from Texas in 1967. In 1971, he became the United States ambassador to the United Nations. In 1973, he became the chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was a liaison to China. Bush ran for president in 1980. When the republican nomination was unwinnnable, eventual winner Ronald Reagan brought Bush onto the the ticket where Bush served as vice president from 1981-1989.

As president, George Bush saw the Berlin Wall come down in 1989 and Germany was reunified in 1990. He was president when he Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act which made discrimination illegal in employment, public accommodations, and transportation. He signed the Clean Air Act in 1990. He was Commander-in-Chief during the Persian Gulf War. He appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. He helped negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Bill Clinton later signed into law. He passed a civil rights bill, a farm bill, and a crime bill.

President Bush had promised “read my lips, no new taxes” when running for president. But deficits made tax increases inevitable during his tenure. That and third party candidate Ross Perot were contributing factors to his defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992.

An American hero, a public servant, a leader of the free world.

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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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