Al­ready miss­ing these 3 who passed in 2018

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Opinion - BY JEN­NIFER RU­BIN

Great artists (Aretha Franklin), sci­en­tists (Stephen Hawk­ings), au­thors (Tom Wolfe), busi­ness lead­ers (Paul Allen) and sports icons (Roger Ban­nis­ter) passed away this year. There were the aw­ful sui­cides of fash­ion de­signer Kate Spade and celebrity chef An­thony Bour­dain.

But for me, the pass­ing of three pub­lic fig­ures, Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rep­re­sents the great­est loss for our coun­try.

I wrote about each of these at the time of their pass­ing, but it’s worth re­view­ing the com­mon themes of their lives and the way they en­deared them­selves to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Bush and McCain were mil­i­tary men, dis­tin­guished by their brav­ery and sac­ri­fice. (Bush was the youngest Navy pi­lot in World War II, fresh out of school; McCain en­dured unimag­in­able tor­ture in Viet­nam.)

All three spent their lives in ser­vice to oth­ers and fully un­der­stood their power and in­flu­ence weren’t for per­sonal ag­gran­dize­ment but, rather, to be used to help the coun­try and the world.

Don’t brag, Barbara Bush would re­mind her chil­dren. The same went for whin­ing. Barbara up­rooted fam­ily, moved to China and in and out of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. It wasn’t a bur­den but a great ad­ven­ture. Bush was vil­i­fied by his party and lost the pres­i­dency, but he was not em­bit­tered.

McCain felt he was the luck­i­est man alive, de­spite in­juries in cap­tiv­ity that af­flicted him through­out his life.

They were all funny, ir­rev­er­ent and blunt – es­pe­cially Barbara and McCain. They ab­horred the bul­lies, the self-im­por­tant and the flat­ter­ers. They could spot a phony and didn’t mind point­ing him out to oth­ers.

They were all Repub­li­cans, but none was an un­think­ing par­ti­san. They didn’t hate Democrats or even dis­like them; Ge­orge Bush and McCain would gladly take sup­port from ei­ther side of the aisle to achieve their goals. And some of those goals were de­cid­edly bi­par­ti­san.

They were all de­voted to chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, setting a model of de­cency, honor, kind­ness and courage for them – and for the coun­try. One could see them de­light in the com­pany of their ex­tended fam­i­lies – McCain in the Ari­zona desert and the Bushes at Ken­neb­unkport, Maine.

They lived vig­or­ous lives, trav­el­ing and play­ing sports. Bush and McCain seemed in­ca­pable of be­ing idle, whether in their pub­lic life or in pri­vate.

They were all read­ers, Barbara de­vot­ing her time to lit­er­acy as first lady. They were in­ter­est­ing peo­ple, and in­ter­ested in the world around them.

They were in many ways atyp­i­cal Amer­i­cans but typ­i­cal of their gen­er­a­tion, which if you want a la­bel other than “Great­est Gen­er­a­tion,” might be called the “It’s not about you” gen­er­a­tion. Baby boomers, by con­trast, are ar­guably the most self­ab­sorbed gen­er­a­tion in his­tory.

The sin­gu­lar re­al­iza­tion that hap­pi­ness and suc­cess come not from self­ind­ul­gence but from ser­vice – what McCain called “the priv­i­lege of serv­ing a cause greater than one­self” – was their North Star. And their lives proved it.

Their pass­ing this year was cause for nos­tal­gia and re­flec­tion, for com­mis­er­a­tion about a dif­fer­ent era in Amer­ica. They should how­ever be an in­spi­ra­tion – don’t whine, be cu­ri­ous, serve oth­ers and “It’s not all about you.” Now there’s a moral code to live by.

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