George H.W. Bush: Former president was a patriot

Today, the casket of former President George H. W. Bush lies in state at the U.S. Capitol, and a nation continues to mourn the loss of a truly great man. But many who grew up observing the political world that changed so rapidly it drove Bush from the White House after only one term may need time to understand the true greatness of a man who strove to be humble and modest.

Bush wanted the United States to be “kinder, gentler,” for volunteers for good causes to create “a thousand points of light.” He signed into the law the Americans With Disabilities Act. He established the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 1989. He signed into law the landmark 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, was “designed to curb three major threats to the nation’s environment and to the health of millions of Americans: acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The proposal also called for establishing a national permits program to make the law more workable, and an improved enforcement program to help ensure better compliance with the Act.”

He negotiated a politically inconvenient budget deal that required the U.S. pay for tax cuts and mandatory spending hike.

And, as a heroic World War II naval airman, a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, a former ambassador to both the United Nations and China, and a two-term vice president, he was perhaps the most well-qualified presidents we have ever had in matters of foreign policy.

“If you look at what happened in the world and the way he managed that, the way he managed the end of the Cold War so that it ended with a whimper and not with a bang, was really incredible. . . . The unification of Germany and peace as a member of NATO. The coalition he put together to reverse Iraq’s aggression in Kuwait. Ending the wars in Central America which had been the holy grail of both the left and the right,” said former secretary of state James A. Baker III.

Yes, Bush made mistakes. Among those that will be remembered is the speed with which he ended the Gulf War in 1991. But included in the reasons for his decision must have been — after seeing war first-hand — his desire to end the killing as quickly as possible.

Retired four-star general and former secretary of state Colin Powell knew the man well, and reminded us all why our nation will miss him.

“A life of quality, a life of honor, a life of honesty, a life of total concern for the American people,” Powell said of Bush. “Everything he thought of, everything he did in public life, was always directed to helping the American people. He was a patriot; he demonstrated that in war, he demonstrated that in peace.”

Thank you, Mr. President.