Don Smith

Our 41st president left a tremendous Legacy on the role the American presidency. An outsized role that has been understated up until recently when all of the news channels have begin to review the amazing accomplishments and achievements of this remarkable statesman and world leader.

I spent many hours watching the television commentators talk about his legacy and one large network remarked upon how little the press acknowledged all of his great attributes and accomplishments at the time he was president and running for reelection in 1992 and then lost to Bill Clinton.

When you look at the resume of this great man, it’s an obvious conclusion that this was the most prepared man for being president in the history of our republic. How in the world America could’ve overlooked all that he was and had done for our country and then turned him out of office after four years is still a mystery to me in many ways. I was reminded, however by many of the commentators honoring him during the week of the Bush funeral, that Ross Perot had a lot to do that. As a strong third-party candidate, Perot took 17 percentage points away that could’ve been George Bush’s.

I have been watching George Bush for a long time, going back to 1970. As a Texas young republican during my senior year in Henderson high school, our small chapter conducted a fundraising campaign at the Howard Dickinson property, cleaning up piles of bricks for resale reviews, to raise money for his Senatorial campaign, which he lost to Lloyd Benson.

He lost the election but energized the Republican Party in Texas at a time when virtually nobody ran for local or county office as a Republican. Even ideological Republicans often ran on the Democratic tickets because it was the only show in town, so to speak, for local offices.

He got a lot of people excited about being Republican in Texas, and just look at how local political landscape has changed over the last 50 years. 

In October 1970, my college let everybody out of school if they wanted to attend a political rally at Gregg County Airport featuring President Richard Nixon and senatorial candidate George Bush. They even offered us the school buses for this unique opportunity, so I got on the “Bush bus” and saw and heard George Bush and President Nixon at the door of Air Force One. On the tarmac where huge crowds between me and the current and future presidents.

That was the year I started paying attention to George Bush and took note every time he got a new appointment, and promotions all the way up to being nominated and winning the vice presidential campaign. Very few presidents have had such a big jump from being elected to the US Congress to being elected vice president and then President.

I often wondered what powerful unseen hand there was in play that this man seemed to be destined for greatness and for high power.

Still not being completely satisfied that I knew the answer, I felt compelled to take a road trip last Thursday, the day that the George Bush 4141 funeral train was rolling from Spring Texas to college station. I knew I had to get down there to College Station and see it for myself, as a bookend to my 1970 experience of seeing him live, on Air Force One in Longview.

 I knew that I wanted to see at least his casket passing by on the Bush Train 4141.

I had a very close vantage point right next to the railroad tracks and paid my last respects to him as the train past and then rolled into the Texas A&M campus where he went to his final resting place at the George H.W. Bush Presidential library and museum.

Yet, I didn’t feel completely done just with this exercise of respect, I wasn’t quite ready to let go. Feeling like I needed to do more and to know more. I decided to Return Friday morning and then again on Saturday to visit the library and soak up everything I could about him.

Among the first to enter the museum in the morning, I was interviewed by KXAN television, Austin. The interview which was included in their  news broadcast Friday night, which was also aired by 12 other NBC affiliate stations across Texas.

KXAN video:

The film crew was there for another 10 hours interviewing people all day long, I felt very honored that they used so much of my interview with them for their broadcast.

In addition to backfilling a lot of the gaps of my knowledge of George Bush, I came away with a much clearer perspective of George Bush, the man and the legend, and walked away much more impressed and thankful that I had this opportunity to soak in so much on those two special days. 

Two days was barely enough to spend there as there’s so much to see and so much to cover as he had such a varied and full public and private life.

Now my sense of George HW Bush is that he was a man of tremendous intelligence, energy, pure desire for public service, character and integrity that those in power recognized the greatness that was within him and that he could be useful for the party, and for the country and for the presidents that put their trust in him. 

He was a natural for those appointments;  he excelled and every single position that he was given. He earned the next position by his performance in each one that he performed so well. 

One of the more poignant exhibits in the museum was a poster for his Presidential campaign that simply read: 

A president we won’t have to train

That’s spoke volumes about the preparedness of the 41rd president, and it was totally true, he had a good 44 years of preparation and training before setting at the desk in the oval office.

Considering what happened during his term of office: kicking Saddam Hussain out of Kuwait, the fall of the Berlin Wall (there is a piece of that at the museum) the cold war ending in Europe and German unification that went so swimmingly; all without any scandals! 

A keen observer would easily note that he had the most successful one one-term presidencies.

One of the most overlooked aspects of President Bush was his tenacity and resolve. He was a risk taker, and loves to win, which might have been disguised in his mild, kind and gentle demeanor and natural humility. When you look at his resume and the energy that he put into everything he did, be it a campaign or a project, sometimes without a back up plan, that shows you what a huge risks he took at so many critical points of his life. 

For example losing the senatorial race in 1970 he was no longer a US congressman. He was out of a job until Nixon appointed him U.N. Ambassador. His daughter, Dorothy, even remarked with a certain amount of anxiety and shame that she was the only one in her class with a father without a job!

The same Nixon that campaigned for him saw the caliber of person that was George Bush and begin a long succession of appointments to higher and higher offices. 

He also saw and George Bush a man who was willing to take risk and play full out in whatever he did. No wonder Nixon had confidence in this junior politician being America’s chief diplomat at the United Nations

This penchant for risk taking was obvious when at age 18 he joined the Navy has a bomber pilot when he easily could’ve gotten a softer in safer position or could have just stayed in Yale University.

He chose to do not what was easy but that which was hard and what the country needed. That’s what made him the kind of dedicated public servant that our country has been so blessed to have had at those critical junctures in our nation’s history.

I fear that we will never have a president so prepared, and so accomplished and with such class as George Bush.

I hope and pray that I’m wrong.

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