Already missing these 3 who passed in 2018
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.