Remembering George H.W. Bush

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Monday, the 3rd of December, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: Remembering a president.

As you no doubt know by now America over the weekend lost a war hero, statesman, the 41st president of the United States, and father of the 43rd. George H.W. Bush was 94. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has this remembrance of his life and career.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12th, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, to Prescott and Dorothy Bush.

Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday—only months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. He went on to became the youngest pilot in the Navy and flew 58 combat missions. He nearly died in one of them, when his plane was shot down about 600 miles south of Japan.

BUSH: I think that experience probably shaped my life when I lost two friends in that plane and felt a sense of responsibility for their death and my life was spared… But I learned something about the pride of the military and duty, honor, country. That served me in good stead as president.

Bush’s actions earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross award and three Air Medals.

Following the war, Bush earned an economics degree at Yale, then went to work in the Texas oilfields. Eventually, he found his way into politics.

Bush served two terms in the House of Representatives before President Richard Nixon appointed him U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He later served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and envoy to China. Then came two terms as vice president under Ronald Reagan.

AUDIO: Justice Potter Stewart will administer the oath of office to the vice president. I George Herbert Walker Bush. I George Herbert Walker Bush. Do solemnly swear… 

Bush became president on January 20th, 1989. He occupied the White House during a tumultuous era of rapid change in the world. Those changes included the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the spread of democracy through Eastern Europe, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

BUSH: The nuclear threat—while far from gone—is receding. Eastern Europe is free. The Soviet Union itself is no more. This is a victory for democracy and freedom. It’s a victory for the moral force of our values.

At home, Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act. But domestic policy was his undoing… after he went back on a key campaign promise.

BUSH: My opponent won’t rule out raising taxes, but I will, and the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I’ll say, “No.” And they’ll push and I’ll say, “No.” And they’ll push again and I’ll say to them, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” (cheering, applause)

Faced with a $200-billion budget deficit, Bush cut a deal with Congress in 1990—including tax increases. He never regained the faith of his fellow Republicans. He lost his reelection bid to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in 1992.

Despite his long political career, Bush is perhaps best known for his even longer marriage. He wed the former Barbara Pierce in 1945. They remained married for 73 years—a record among U.S. presidents. Barbara Bush died earlier this year.

Bush was pro-life and in his presidential nomination acceptance speech  encouraged adoption.

BUSH: Barbara and I have an adopted granddaughter. The day of her christening we wept with joy. I thank God that her parents chose life.  

After leaving office, Bush and his wife returned to Houston, where they were regulars at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.

Bush also became a prolific fundraiser. After a tsunami devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, he worked with his former rival, Bill Clinton, to create the Bush-Clinton Houston Tsunami Fund. The two teamed up again to fundraise for relief efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Ike.

CLINTON: It’s heartbreaking to watch what our fellow citizens in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are going through and it invokes within all of us a desire to help. And all of us can help. BUSH: Now, we know Americans are generous, compassionate people and that’s why we come to you again, not as presidents, but as private citizens.

Bush was preceded in death by his second child, Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of three.

He is survived by his five other children—former President George W. Bush, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Neil Mallon Bush, Marvin Pierce Bush, and Dorothy Bush Koch. He had 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/F. Carter Smith, File) In this Nov. 7, 1984 file photo, flag-wavers greet Vice President George Bush after he was re-elected to the post of vice president, in Houston, Texas. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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