A life­time of les­sons.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - MATT MACKOWIAK Matt Mackowiak is pres­i­dent of Austin, Texas, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.based Po­tomac Strat­egy Group. He’s a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant, a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bush-Cheney re-elec­tion cam­paign vet­eran and former press sec­re­tary to two U.S. sen­a­tor

The pass­ing of Ge­orge H.W. Bush has pro­vided the coun­try with a rare mo­ment of pause dur­ing these few days of na­tional mourn­ing to con­sider his ex­tra­or­di­nary life of ser­vice.

At 94, a cred­i­ble ar­gu­ment can be made that un­til last week, the na­tion’s 41st pres­i­dent was our great­est liv­ing Amer­i­can. He may also be our great­est one-term pres­i­dent in U.S. his­tory. Few peo­ple can say they have given over 70 years of their life in pub­lic ser­vice.

Con­sider Pres­i­dent Bush’s re­mark­able ser­vice to our coun­try.

On his 18th birth­day, he en­listed in the Navy in the days fol­low­ing Pearl Har­bor and after com­plet­ing train­ing in June 1943, he be­came one of the youngest naval avi­a­tors in Amer­i­can his­tory. He flew 58 com­bat mis­sions through­out World War II, earn­ing the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross, three Air Medals and shar­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Unit Ci­ta­tion.

After grad­u­at­ing from Yale, he moved his fam­ily to west Texas, be­liev­ing that he needed to earn his own for­tune. Over time, he did, in the oil busi­ness. In 1963, Bush was elected chair­man of the Har­ris County Repub­li­can Party in Hous­ton. A year later, he ran for U.S. Se­nate and lost.

In 1966, he won elec­tion to Congress and rep­re­sented a Hous­ton district for two terms. He was ap­pointed to the pow­er­ful House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee as a fresh­man mem­ber, a feat rarely achieved in Congress. In 1970, at Pres­i­dent Nixon’s urg­ing, Bush again ran for U.S. Se­nate and lost. Texas was a Demo­cratic state at that time.

This is when his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer would tem­po­rar­ily end. Be­liev­ing that a true pa­triot finds a way to say ‘yes’ when the na­tion calls, Ge­orge H.W. Bush would re­ceive a se­ries of im­por­tant and chal­leng­ing as­sign­ments.

In 1971, Pres­i­dent Nixon ap­pointed Bush as am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. He would serve in that role for two years, gain­ing a broad and deep un­der­stand­ing of for­eign pol­icy. In 1973, Bob Dole re­signed as Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man and Pres­i­dent Nixon ap­pointed Bush to that po­si­tion. Serv­ing as RNC chair­man dur­ing Water­gate was un­usu­ally dif­fi­cult, but it speaks vol­umes about the man that he com­pleted his ser­vice there with­out any ques­tion of his ethics.

U.S. am­bas­sador to China, di­rec­tor of the CIA after one of the dark­est times in the agency’s his­tory — when a mess needed clean­ing up, Ge­orge Bush was given the task.

Bush of course ran for pres­i­dent in 1980, then served eight years as Ron­ald Rea­gan’s vice pres­i­dent be­fore fi­nally mak­ing it to the Oval Of­fice in 1988. It can be said that no one in our his­tory has ever been as qual­i­fied for the of­fice as Ge­orge Bush was when he be­came pres­i­dent.

Apart from his sin­gu­lar record of gov­ern­ment ser­vice, Pres­i­dent Bush taught many les­sons that we should heed to­day.

He was kind and thought­ful. There are lim­it­less ex­am­ples of peo­ple who re­ceived a hand­writ­ten let­ter from him after an achieve­ment or dur­ing some pe­riod of dif­fi­culty.

He was gen­er­ous. He deeply be­lieved in pub­lic ser­vice. As the son of a sen­a­tor, he did not need to en­list in the Navy. He could have won a de­fer­ment or sought his col­lege ed­u­ca­tion first. But he chose to en­list and put him­self in harm’s way.

He be­lieved that pub­lic ser­vice was hon­or­able, and that for those to whom much is given, much is re­quired. His Points of Light Foun­da­tion sought to cre­ate mil­lions of vol­un­teers around the world — and it has suc­ceeded for decades in in­spir­ing new gen­er­a­tions.

Per­haps the great­est les­son that Ge­orge H.W. Bush can teach us is how to lose with grace. He had ev­ery rea­son to de­spise Bill Clin­ton after the bruis­ing cam­paign in 1992. But he held no grudges.

The let­ter he wrote to Mr. Clin­ton that awaited him in the Oval Of­fice is one of the most states­man­like writ­ten works of our mod­ern era. He truly wanted his Demo­cratic suc­ces­sor to do well and he of­fered to help how­ever he could. Their friend­ship deep­ened over time and to­gether they raised hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to aid those struck by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

The spirit of Ge­orge H.W. Bush must en­dure.

He was a re­mark­able Amer­i­can cit­i­zen and a truly spe­cial per­son. Our coun­try was lucky to have him. We can honor his legacy by re­mem­ber­ing these les­sons — and liv­ing them in our ev­ery­day lives.

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