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Bush 41

December 5, 2018

During assembly on Wednesday, December 5, members of the Current Events Club ~ seniors Kate Appleton, Cassie Berns and Katie Kuhlman ~ spoke about President George H. W. Bush. Their collective remarks follow:

As many of you know, this past Friday former President George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94. He lay in State in the rotunda of the Capitol building on Monday evening and Tuesday and was visited by Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress, generals, cabinet members, family, and thousands more who wished to pay their respects to the 41st President of the US. His funeral begins today in Washington and will continue in Texas tomorrow, where he will be buried.

President Bush was born into a wealthy New England family, the son of a Senator, and attended private elementary and high schools. At the age of 18, just after his high school graduation, he volunteered for World War 2. He saw combat as a fighter pilot and was actually shot down over the Pacific and rescued at sea by a US submarine, which happened to be caught on camera for anyone who is interested in how that all happened. President Bush was the last World War 2 veteran to serve in the office of president of the United States.

Upon returning home from the war, President Bush attended Yale University, where he played baseball, and then moved to Texas where he entered the oil business and eventually began his political career.

Before becoming president, George H.W. Bush led a long and distinguished career in civil service: as a Congressman, Ambassador to the UN, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Director of the CIA and Vice President under Ronald Reagan. He then became the first VP in 150 years to be elected President while serving as Vice President.

As President, Mr. Bush hoped to offer a “kindler, gentler” America and sought to highlight Americans doing good deeds with a program he called “a thousand points of light."

In terms of foreign policy, President Bush’s two largest achievements show his restraint in the face of conflict. First, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, he declared that the aggression “will not stand,” using his global connections to form an alliance that drove Saddam Hussein and the Iraq military out of Kuwait. Despite calls for him to remove Hussein from power completely, he did not. Second, when the Soviet Union began to collapse, he refused to celebrate the end of the Cold War, believing that any American celebrations could provoke a harsh and potentially damaging reaction by hard-liners in the crumbling Soviet Union.

When looking at his domestic achievements, he appointed the second African American to the US Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. In addition, he signed two tremendously important pieces of legislation: the Clean Air Act, which raised environmental standards and set the US on a path to be a world leader in future discussions, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was a major piece of civil rights legislation for a marginalized group.

It was, however, another piece of domestic legislation that likely cost him his second term. As VP, he had watched President Reagan cut taxes, and famously promised to continue Reagan’s policies in his 1988 campaign, saying: “read my lips: no new taxes.” However, during his administration, he saw how the tax cuts caused the federal deficit to quickly expand, and worked with Democrats to raise taxes and balance the budget.

Conservative Republicans in Congress were unhappy, and challenged President Bush in the 1992 primary. This coupled with a third party candidate doomed his reelection effort. Bill Clinton won, with Bush only earning 37% of the popular vote, the lowest ever for a sitting president.

In retirement, he continued to serve others, joining with former President Clinton in a bipartisan effort to raise money for victims of the Asian tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In addition, he was recently quoted in an authorized biography where he was very critical of his son’s political advisors and expressed regret about his 1988 political campaign which opponents thought had racist overtones.

He was also known for jumping out of airplanes to celebrate his birthday, making his last jump at age 90.

Late in his life, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and confined to a wheelchair.

His wife of 73 years, Barbara, passed away this past April. He will be buried next to her and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3. He is survived by four sons, including the former 43rd President of the United States and Governor of Florida, a daughter, 17 grandkids, and 8 great grandkids.

President Bush will clearly be missed by many. We will be discussing his life further this Friday morning along with lots of other current events! We hope to see lots of you at the meeting Friday morning, 7:45, Dr. Smith’s room, 210.