Nation Mourns Passing of President George H.W. Bush

Ryan Wolfe

George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States of America, passed away on Nov. 30 in his Houston, Texas home. President Bush was the longest living President in United States history at 94 years old. President Bush, the last of the Greatest Generation to serve in the Executive Office, lived a life devoted to public service. At the age of 18, Bush decided to postpone going to college and instead enlisted in the Navy. After receiving the Flying Cross and being honorably discharged from the military, Bush attended Yale University and received a degree in economics. He and his wife, Barbara Pierce Bush, who passed away earlier this year, moved to Texas. 

In 1966, President Bush was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Texas’ 7th Congressional District and strongly fought for the federal age of voting to be moved to 18 and voted to abolish the military draft. President Nixon appointed Bush as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 1970 after a failed campaign for one of Texas’ Senate seats. In his time as Ambassador to the United Nations, Bush advocated for “friendly relations” with the People’s Republic of China, the Communist-controlled replacement government of the Republic of China, which is now more commonly known as Taiwan. 

Bush, a friend of Richard Nixon, was assigned to be the Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973 and formally requested that President Nixon resign as President after the Watergate scandal was leaked to the public. After Nixon’s resignation, his successor, Gerald Ford, appointed Bush as the envoy to the People’s Republic of China. During his time as envoy to the People’s Republic of China, he greatly improved US-Chinese relations.

In 1976, after two years in China, Bush returned to the United States and acted as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1980, Bush ran for the Republican nomination for President, but lost to Ronald Reagan. Despite heavy criticisms of Reagan’s supply-side economics, also known as Reaganomics or trickle-down economics, or as Bush called them “voodoo economics,” Bush was selected as Reagan’s running-mate. 

Bush, as Vice President, served both terms under Reagan. Bush attended many funerals and state events during his time as Vice President, which allowed him to form relationships with many foreign leaders, which would prove useful during his term as President. Bush acted as an advocate for arms reduction, especially in Eastern Europe, and fought with President Reagan for the fall of the USSR. While Vice President, Bush acted as the head of foreign relations, meeting with countries such as Romania, El Salvador, Poland, Namibia and Angola. He also helped promote the War on Drugs. While in their second term in office, Bush started planning his bid for the 1988 presidential election. 

In 1988, after two terms as Vice President to Ronald Reagan, Bush capped off his career in public service by winning the Republican nomination for President and won the general election against Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, 426-111 electoral votes. This marked the first time since 1948 that either the Republicans or Democrats won three elections for the presidency in a row. During his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention, he pledged to refuse to cede the Democrats on raising taxes. This pledge was broken in 1990 in order to balance the budget. 

Among Bush’s major accomplishments in office were the success of the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and contributing to dissolution of the USSR, appointing David Souter and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, hastening the unification of East and West Germany, helping pass the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. He reauthorized the Clean Air Act and the Immigration Act of 1990, which saw immigration in the United States increase by 40%. 

However, despite a bipartisan effort on behalf of the Bush administration and many successes abroad, Bush lost the 1992 Presidential election to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton due to a lagging economy and the broken “No new taxes” pledge. Despite Bush’s loss to Clinton, he left office with a 53% job approval rating. These sentiments grew over time as Bush Sr.’s approval rating of his time in office rose to 60% in 2008. 

Despite losing to Clinton in 1992, his legacy lived on in his two sons, Jeb and George W. Jeb, the Governor of Florida and George W., the Governor of Texas and eventual 43rd president of the United States. While staying out of the political spotlight, Bush continued his work in public service by serving as chairman of the National Constitution Center, located in center city Philadelphia – across the lawn from Independence Hall – and the chairman of the Points of Light nonprofit. He also served as a close confidant for President Clinton after their time in office and a close advisor to his son George W. in the White House. 

In 2012, Bush was diagnosed with vascular parkinsonism, a type of Parkinson’s disease that caused him to be confined to a wheelchair or scooter for the last few years of his life. He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Bush, who passed away earlier in 2018 and his daughter, Robin.