OPINION: Remembering The Kindness And Strength Of George H.W. Bush

Mary Claire Kendall | Author, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends

It was November 30, 1988. Thirty years to the day before former President George H.W. Bush would leave this world for his Heavenly home.

That November 30, he was looking forward to a world of challenging responsibility as 41st President of the United States, along with the honor of holding the highest office in the land.

It fit him like a glove. He was a man of honor; good, decent, kind — and strong.

I saw it up-close.

After working on the Bush-Quayle ’88 Campaign — and George Bush for President in 1987 — as one of “Lee Atwater’s 30 nerds,” I had to decide whether to work with the Presidential Transition Team or the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The transition it was.

On November 30, 1988, I scurried down to the headquarters.

It was good timing. Within an hour, the president-elect paid a visit.

When he arrived, I was standing in the back of the room with my hand resting on the railing separating the entrance hallway from the work-space.

As President-Elect George H.W. Bush walked by, he patted my hand. His kind gesture, so full of warmth, brought tears to my eyes because I had just lost grandfather, age 94, three weeks earlier. It was as if his ghost was hovering nearby. The last thing I had told my grandfather, a rock-ribbed Republican, was that George H.W. Bush had won the presidency, which brought a smile to his face.

The next day, before my grandfather breathed his last, he told my father, “I love you,” just like 41 said to 43.  He had never said that before.

Almost four years later, I saw the now-president once more during his visit with the National Commission on Urban America’s Families in Columbia, Missouri. He had announced the commission in his 1992 State of the Union Address and after Los Angeles exploded in the wake of the Rodney King guilty verdict, the commission picked up the pace. As No. 2 staffer, appointed early May, I oversaw all the arrangements for site visits and meetings in umpteen cities including Columbia.

What struck me during President Bush’s visit in the Missouri capital was how his energy had waned — the Graves disease clearly taking its toll in the wake of having lost his pit bull and master tactician, Lee Atwater, to a fatal brain tumor in March 1991.

Then, too, he had completed his mission.

He ended the Cold War.

He checked Saddam Hussein’s hegemonic appetite.

He neutralized the Savings and Loan debacle.

He tamed the deficit, setting the stage for explosive growth, if not his re-election.

He shepherded through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

He developed a framework for hemispheric trade.

He renewed the Clean Air Act.

He catalyzed the Points of Light Foundation.

Then, he gracefully made way for the next generation. Now, he will shine forever as a glistening “point of light,” calling forth selfless leadership and noble service.

Yes, “mission complete,” kindly pillar of strength.

Mary Claire Kendall served as special assistant to the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.  She is the author of “Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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