Farewell 41

America's 41st president, George H.W. Bush, died late Friday evening. He was 94.

Bush Sr. has been called the most successful one-term president in U.S. history. A bit of a back-handed compliment maybe, but it's probably true. The Cold War ended on his watch – the Berlin wall fell, and the Soviet Union dissolved. Bush skillfully navigated the choppy waters of that massive reshuffling of the world order. He signed treaties with Gorbachev mandating historic reductions in nuclear and chemical weapons. In 1990, he put together a 28-nation coalition that expelled Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait. The American-led ground war in Iraq lasted just over four days.

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Americans usually like their presidents a lot more once they've left office. This was especially true of Bush. Following eight years of the "great communicator," Ronald Reagan, Americans found George Bush rather bland. He was accused of being out of touch and having no domestic agenda as the economy slumped mid-way through his presidency. He didn't exactly send thrills up the legs of conservatives either. He wasn't the guy for pushing ideological agendas. Yet, America would come to miss the sense of calm and normalcy that he brought to the White House.

George Bush's four years in office were the calm before the partisan storm. His presidency marked the end of an era. He was our last president to have served in World War II. By the time the 1992 election rolled around, the shifting political winds seemed to catch Bush by surprise. The telling sign that he didn't appreciate the rising cool-factor of his '92 challenger, Bill Clinton, came during one of their debates when Bush seemed bored and at one point even checked his watch. It was as if America was checking its watch too and realized after twelve straight years of

Republicans in the White House, maybe it was time to give this young draft-dodger from Arkansas a chance.

Sometimes, we don't appreciate what we've got 'til it's gone.

By today's standards, Bush was way overqualified to become president. He had been a congressman from Texas, ambassador to the UN, chairman of the RNC, U.S. envoy to China, director of the CIA, and Vice President. Despite his accomplishments, he declined to write the traditional presidential memoir because he thought it would be unseemly to write about himself.

Bush's calm sincerity and genuine modesty seem like such a throwback now. With his passing, it makes you wonder whether we'll ever see a president like him again. He wasn't perfect, nor was he a saint. But he was a gentleman, he loved his country, and he served it well.

At the end of his first year as president, Bush wrote in his diary, "I'm certainly not seen as visionary, but I hope I'm seen as steady and prudent and able."

Sometimes, we don't appreciate what we've got 'til it's gone.

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