“Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C. are not bothered by heavy traffic”- former Senator Alan Simpson
George Herbert Walker Bush, the nation’s 41st President of the United States, was laid to rest today at a State Funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, a funeral befitting “for a man of such great humility” as former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson so eloquently said.
A kind, gentle man, it was often said of President Bush that he never met a ‘stranger’, because he had a unique way of making fast friends.
I can attest to that and my memory of our short but cherished time together is forever memorialized in a photo he so thoughtfully arranged to send me.
We spoke for some time the day we met (as outlined in the letter below) and, as busy as he was campaigning in New Jersey for re-election in September 1992, the conversation for the most part centered around him asking about me, essentially who I was, what did I do, did I have a family, was everyone well.
He was a man I always admired and, like millions of others, he is a man I always will. I told him so that day.
His passing marks the end of an important era in American history. The partisan feelings and rancor of today’s tumultuous political climate are poor substitutes for the characteristics he embodied, namely civility and grace.
I wrote him to thank him and reminiscence. I, like millions around the world, feel a profound sense of loss that he’s gone. He was a good man. May he rest in peace.
July 18, 2015
Dear President (George H.W.) Bush:
I just this minute finished reading 41 A Portrait of My Father by your devoted son and for that reason and others I felt compelled to write you to both compliment President George W. Bush on his sincere and heartfelt portrayal of you and, if you would be kind enough, to allow me to reminiscence, as well.
We met some time ago (September 30, 1992). The occasion was a campaign stop at a Heavy Construction union hall in Newark, New Jersey. You were receiving an endorsement from the union leadership for the upcoming presidential election.
The union President, Richard Tissiere, was a World War II Navy veteran and an ardent admirer of you and your wartime service and heroics. He also served in the Pacific Theatre. Unlike other AFL-CIO affiliates at the time, Union Local 472 was steadfast in its willingness to stand by you.
You and I spoke for some time that day and, although a stalwart Democrat, I did relate to you how I admired your accomplishments, your devotion to our country and your stellar career in public service. You were kind to send me a photograph of the occasion.
That day in 1992 my son was 7 years old. On May 29, 2014, I had the privilege of sitting in Harvard Yard for the commencement ceremonies when you, a Yale man, were honored with an honorary Doctorate of Laws (multi-colored socks and all). My son, by then a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, (who as a young man worked in the summers for the same union as a laborer lugging cement), received his MBA that day from Harvard Business School.
Watching you grace the stage that beautiful spring morning brought back pleasant memories of our meeting 23 years ago. Your son’s literary portrait of you and his insights and emphasis on the importance of family gave me pause to reflect how a proud father can be comforted by the accomplishments of his son.
Please accept my best wishes for continued good health and happiness and thank you for the photograph and for the memories of our short time together. -Tom Barrett