Gratitude for George H.W. Bush

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, December 6, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

In 1944, George H.W. Bush was a naval aviator in the Pacific. After being shot down by the Japanese, an American submarine was dispatched to rescue the downed flier. A Japanese officer, looking on from a nearby island, marveled at the American Navy’s concern for the value of a single human life.

That one life, scooped from the waters of the ocean, went on to make a massive impact on the history of the 20th century, first as a vice president, then as the 41st president of the United States.

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During his time as vice president, one incident captures the modesty of George H.W. Bush. On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot. Vice President Bush was in the air at the time, and his plane was diverted back to D.C. Officials wanted Americans to know that Bush was “in charge,” so they encouraged him to land in a helicopter on the White House lawn. Bush refused. He stated, “Only one person is qualified to land on the White House lawn, and that is the president. That man is Ronald Reagan, and he is going to pull through this.”

That incident captures not only Bush’s modesty but also his loyalty.

Eventually, Bush would become the man landing on the White House lawn, and he was the right man to be at the helm for the epic events of 1988-1992. First, he showed a deft touch during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. A president with less foreign policy experience might have gloated, and made matters worse. But Bush showed his typical modesty and restraint, allowing the evil empire to collapse by its own weight.

His foreign policy expertise also shone after the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Bush skillfully assembled a coalition of 28 nations, and as Commander-in-Chief oversaw a perfectly executed Operation Desert Storm, liberating Kuwait.

After Desert Storm, in early 1991, President Bush’s approval stood at almost 90 percent. But just a year later, Americans elected Bill Clinton, a man whose character was the opposite George H.W. Bush’s in almost every way. One can argue that we have not been the same since.

Late Friday night, the signal “CAVU” went out to the Bush inner circle. That was code for “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.” It meant that Bush had passed away. CAVU is a term used by naval aviators, signaling an unlimited ability to fly.

It was time for President Bush to fly homeward. Bush professed a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He is now with the Lord, and with Barbara, his wife of 73 years, who just passed away in April.

In this day and age of reckless words and actions on the part of so many public figures in both political parties, many people, including myself, miss the civility and statesmanship of George H.W. Bush.

His rejection at the ballot box in 1992 reminds one of how British voters rejected Winston Churchill at the end of World War II. Churchill, like Bush, went from being the most popular figure in his nation, to being voted out of office only months later.

Perhaps in death “Bush 41” will receive the nation’s gratitude. It is well deserved.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.