Bush fu­neral a mo­ment for re­flec­tion on the great­ness of Amer­ica

The Olympian - - Opinion - BY THE NEWS­DAY ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush was elected pres­i­dent in 1988, and the 30-year gap be­tween his vic­tory and his fu­neral Wed­nes­day means many Amer­i­cans don’t re­mem­ber his sin­gle pres­i­den­tial term well. Some were not yet born or were too young to pay much heed. Oth­ers had not yet reached our shores.

Among those who lived through Bush’s time in the White House and re­mem­ber it well, there re­main sharp po­lit­i­cal di­vides over the 41st pres­i­dent’s lead­er­ship.

But in the mes­sages from eu­lo­gists and the uni­fy­ing and non­par­ti­san ca­ma­raderie of those at Bush’s fu­neral at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral, there were unique pageantry, pro­to­cols and his­tory. And at a time when our na­tion’s body politic is torn asun­der by rage and dis­unity, it was a re­minder that we have a com­mon tra­di­tion.

When the frail for­mer se­na­tor and fel­low World War II vet­eran Bob Dole de­liv­ered a stir­ring, stand­ing salute to Bush’s cas­ket Tues­day, his ac­tion ce­mented a feel­ing that the na­tion was say­ing good­bye to more than a for­mer pres­i­dent. We mourn the pass­ing of a gen­er­a­tion of men and women who, while im­per­fect, en­dured fan­tas­tic hard­ship to safe­guard and build the world we en­joy. We fear that the ethos they cham­pi­oned, of courage and gen­eros­ity and hu­mil­ity and com­mu­nity, is dis­ap­pear­ing, too.

But Bush, his eu­lo­gists said, felt no such pes­simism for the fu­ture. They told the story of a stu­dent and a war­rior, a friend and a fam­ily man, an ath­lete and prankster, and a sup­port­ing ac­tor on the na­tional po­lit­i­cal scene who cap­tured the lead role, only to lose it. Bush’s el­dest son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, re­called an op­ti­mistic, lov­ing fa­ther who “showed me what it means to be a pres­i­dent who serves with in­tegrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the cit­i­zens of our coun­try.”

The U.S. is far from the only free na­tion, and it is not the only land where four for­mer lead­ers and a cur­rent one, rep­re­sent­ing vastly dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal be­liefs, could gather in sol­i­dar­ity to send off an­other leader. But it is the na­tion where the idea of demo­crat­i­cally elected lead­ers with op­pos­ing views re­plac­ing each other peace­fully was in­vented and em­braced. Ev­ery other na­tion that cel­e­brates such a tra­di­tion is try­ing to live up to the ex­am­ple that was on dis­play at Bush’s fu­neral.

So, in­creas­ingly, is the United States.

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