Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - Am­bas­sador B. RO­MUALDEZ Email: babeseye­[email protected]

When Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush ad­dressed Amer­i­cans for the first time as pres­i­dent of the most pow­er­ful na­tion on earth on Jan. 20, 1989, he called on “friends in the loyal op­po­si­tion” to rise above par­ti­san pol­i­tics, say­ing that, “in cru­cial things, unity.”

I was for­tu­nate to be in­vited to the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the 41st Pres­i­dent of the United States, and had the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with now Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, the late Repub­li­can Party strate­gist and pres­i­den­tial ad­viser Lee At­wa­ter, and “Bush 41’s” White House chief of staff John Su­nunu (see pho­tos in This Week on Peo­pleAsia at the Al­lure sec­tion of the Philip­pine STAR to­day). The at­mos­phere dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral was ju­bi­lant with Repub­li­cans in high spir­its, but there was also that great hope of unity and respite from po­lit­i­cal ran­cor, the tone al­ready set from the start by Ge­orge H.W. Bush whose re­cent pass­ing is mourned by many peo­ple all over the world who re­mem­ber him as a leader who was im­bued with grace, kind­ness and most of all, hu­mil­ity.

Dur­ing the 2017 Pres­i­den­tial Lead­er­ship Schol­ars Pro­gram grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony with for­mer pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Ge­orge W. Bush as speak­ers, event mod­er­a­tor David Ru­bin­stein asked both men what it takes to be pres­i­dent of the United States. Bush Jr. an­swered:“hu­mil­ity.”

While fa­ther and son – re­ferred to as“41” and “43” re­spec­tively – may have had dis­tinc­tive lead­er­ship styles, with the younger Bush de­ter­mined to be his own man, they had many things in com­mon. One of them is the con­vic­tion that Amer­ica is the pro­tec­tor of peace, the bas­tion of free­dom and democ­racy – a na­tion that takes its al­liances se­ri­ously and stands by its word.

“I come be­fore you and as­sume the Pres­i­dency at a mo­ment rich with prom­ise. We live in a peace­ful, pros­per­ous time, but we can make it bet­ter. For a new breeze is blow­ing, and a world re­freshed by free­dom seems re­born. Great na­tions of the world are mov­ing to­ward democ­racy through the door to free­dom…

“To the world, too, we of­fer new en­gage­ment and a re­newed vow: We will stay strong to pro­tect the peace… Great na­tions like great men must keep their word. When Amer­ica says some­thing, Amer­ica means it, whether a treaty or an agree­ment or a vow made on mar­ble steps,” the el­der Bush said in his in­au­gu­ral speech.

When Ge­orge W. Bush ad­dressed the Philip­pine Congress dur­ing his state visit to Manila in Oc­to­ber 2003, he spoke of his be­lief in democ­racy as “the only form of govern­ment fully com­pat­i­ble with hu­man dig­nity.”

He warned against ter­ror­ists who threaten the safety of the peo­ple by spread­ing fear and chaos, strongly ex­hort­ing Philip­pine se­cu­rity forces to pro­tect lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and de­feat ter­ror­ism in ev­ery form. “In the war on ter­ror, the US-Philip­pines mil­i­tary al­liance is a rock of sta­bil­ity in the Pa­cific,” he said, prais­ing the Philip­pines’ com­mit­ment to democ­racy and peace.

“The United States and the Philip­pines have a proud his­tory. And we face the fu­ture bound by the strong­est ties two na­tions can share. We stand for lib­erty, and we stand to­gether,” ended the younger Bush, who was grate­ful to Pres­i­dent Ar­royo for sup­port­ing the United States’ war against ter­ror es­pe­cially in the af­ter­math of 9/11.

And this is one other thing that Bush 41 and Bush 43 share in com­mon: There is a spe­cial spot in their hearts for the Philip­pines and Filipinos.

Dur­ing World War II, then young Navy avi­a­tor Ge­orge H.W. Bush flew sev­eral mis­sions in sup­port of Amer­i­can com­bat op­er­a­tions in the Philip­pines. When he was pres­i­dent, Bush 41 ap­pointed a young Filipino-Amer­i­can doc­tor by the name of Eleanor “Con­nie” Mar­i­ano to be­come a ju­nior mem­ber of the White House Med­i­cal Unit. Dr. Mar­i­ano went on to be­come the White House med­i­cal di­rec­tor – the first fe­male to be ap­pointed to the po­si­tion – dur­ing the pres­i­dency of Bill Clin­ton. Not many also know that Bush Sr. had a per­sonal Filip­ina nurse by the name of Julie Arse­nio who took care of him, and she seemed to en­joy the warmth and af­fec­tion of both fa­ther and son.

I joined Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ar­royo on her visit to the United States in June 2008, where Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush Jr. said, “I want to tell you how proud I am to be pres­i­dent of a na­tion in which there are a lot of Philip­pine-Amer­i­cans. They love Amer­ica and they love their her­itage… And I am re­minded of the great ta­lent of our Philip­pine-Amer­i­cans when I eat din­ner at the White House. The chef is a great per­son and a re­ally good cook.”

He was of course re­fer­ring to Cris­teta Pa­sia Comer­ford, a Filip­ina-Amer­i­can who was ap­pointed as White House Ex­ec­u­tive Chef in Au­gust 2005 by first lady Laura Bush. Comer­ford, who was re­tained by Barack Obama and Don­ald Trump, is the first fe­male and the first one of Asian de­scent to oc­cupy the po­si­tion. There have been many other Filipino-Amer­i­cans who have worked in the White House over the years – jok­ingly re­ferred to by Bush Jr. as Filipino “se­cret am­bas­sadors” who pro­vided him with use­ful in­sights about our unique Filipino cul­ture.

Un­for­tu­nately, I missed the funeral ser­vices for the for­mer pres­i­dent in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. I’m cur­rently in Manila for the ar­rival of the Balangiga bells.

Sen­a­tor Mitch McCon­nell best de­scribed Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, pa­tri­arch of a great po­lit­i­cal fam­ily that pro­duced two US pres­i­dents and two state gov­er­nors: A hum­ble ser­vant and a prin­ci­pled leader who kept Amer­ica on course.

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