With the passing of former president George H.W. Bush this week, much has been written about his graciousness, humor and humility.
Ten years ago, in September of 2008, Bush visited Scott County when Georgetown College named its fitness center in his honor. Those who met Bush that day each have fond memories and how he wanted to connect with each one individually.
Several powerful images have emerged from events in Washington D.C. and Texas regarding final arrangements for Bush, including photos of his service dog, Sully, resting beside the casket.
But the singular most powerful image is that of former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, who at 95 is confined to a wheelchair, directing an aide to help him stand on the floor of the Capitol rotunda and saluting his one-time rival. Dole was among thousands of mourners who filed into the rotunda to pay respects to Bush as he lay in state.
Let’s put this in context.
Both Bush and Dole were World War II veterans. Dole was critically wounded in that war, limiting his mobility in his right arm.
Even though Bush and Dole were each members of the Republican Party, they were fierce political rivals. That rivalry heated up during the 1988 presidential campaign which is remembered for Dole’s angry retort when interviewed on national television saying Bush should “stop lying about my record,” in response to Bush’s political commercials accusing Dole of “straddling” on taxes.
Bush eventually defeated Dole for the presidency.
The two men obviously worked together, but they often found themselves at opposite points. They got along, but it was no secret the common ground between the two men was narrow politically.
The image of Dole struggling to stand so he could give his once-political rival the highest possible gesture of respect is one America should absorb and remember. It was a class act by Dole, but the action also demonstrates something that seems to have been lost in recent years.
We do not always have to agree. We are all Americans, and we all want what is best for this nation we love. The fact that we may have differing ideas who to make America better is actually one of our nation’s strengths.
George H.W. Bush was not perfect, but he genuinely cared about others. And even his rivals note he tried to do what was best for the country, not always what was best for himself.
We will fondly remember the day George H.W. Bush visited Scott County and Georgetown College. We will remember the day not just because a former president stopped by, but because a gracious and great man visited. It should be noted that Robert Dole also visited Georgetown College during the early 1990s.
Respect. Honor. Dignity. Gracious.
Rest in Peace, George H.W. Bush, you have served your fellow man well.