This past weekend the news that George H.W. Bush, our forty-first president had died, quickly made its way across the country and around the world.
Today, I would like to honor the late President George Herbert Walker Bush. I appreciate having this opportunity to celebrate the life and accomplishments of President Bush and to mourn him. His loss will be deeply felt by all of us here in Congress, throughout the nation, and around the world. He is survived by his five children, including former President George W. Bush, former Governor Jeb Bush, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy Bush, his 17 grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.
Great thinkers, writers, and other speakers, will take up their pens and try to determine President Bush’s place in history, and they will debate his significance to the United States of America and his effect on the world. For those of us who lived through his presidency, who experienced his time as our leader, those questions and debates are unnecessary. His place in history has been determined not by what we say now, but by his actions as president, his dignity as a person and his compassion for others. His dedication to service and humility remained at the forefront even as he filled the role as leader of the free world.
I was serving in the Wyoming Legislature and did not work alongside President Bush in Washington, but while I did not have the pleasure of working with him personally, his career and his life speak to what a remarkable man he was. He was a dedicated husband, father and public servant. He lived his life with honor and distinction, from enlisting in the Navy at the age of 18 during World War II to serving in Congress. He continued his tradition of public service in the executive branch as an ambassador, vice-president and finally as president. His dedication to serving his country was exemplary.
As an ambassador and negotiator, he was a talented diplomat and powerful champion for America’s interests. As president, he worked toward education reform and signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, helping to ensure disabled Americans have opportunities others take for granted.
He was a practical man who preferred prudence and what’s real to the abstract and ephemeral. It was this belief in practicality and prudence that allowed him to handle some of the most challenging events in our history with calm tenacity. His pragmatic nature allowed President Bush to collaborate and befriend President Bill Clinton, once his political adversary, to help lead the relief efforts to raise funds for the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
During his presidency the Cold War finally ended, the Iron Curtain came down, and the people of Eastern Europe chose freedom. These events left a singular super power amid a world free of major conflict and he aimed to lead the world into an era where the world would recognize its “shared responsibility for freedom and justice, a world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.”
President Bush once listed the qualities he most cherished and among them were: “family,….love, decency, honor, pride, tolerance, hope, kindness, loyalty, freedom,… faith, service to country, [and] fair play…” He and Barbara passed those values on to their children, and lived them in front of the country. In many different ways they nurtured the next generation of leaders whose contributions have continued to enrich this nation.
President Bush’s faith helped him through many of the more trying times in his life, through his daughter’s death, through his time in war, he was a man who had not one moment but many that helped him turn to God on his spiritual journey. He once said, “I am guided by certain traditions, one is that there’s a God, and He is good and His love, while free has a self-imposed cost: We must be good to one another.” This sentiment is emblematic of his life. He served as many things, father, husband, president, humanitarian, and fighter. His life is a study of strong choices and bold strokes across the history of the United States, all of them guided by the strongest fundamentals of right and wrong. I am sure that he is joyous to be reunited with his closest companion, Barbara, and their daughter Robin, in heaven.
While America is remembering a combat veteran, a president, and an ambassador. His family will be remembering a husband and a father. My wife Diana and I send our thoughts and deepest condolences to the entire Bush family as we mourn the passing of a president. The passing of a loved one, especially someone who has meant so much to so many, has never, and will never, be an easy burden to bear.
How can I adequately speak about the life of a man who has had such a long and distinguished career? By praising the accomplishments of a man who never stopped working to make the world a better place, the man who reached across the political aisle to foster friendships, and by saying thank you.
Thank you for your service. Thank you for your leadership.
God bless you and may you and your family find peace.
I yield the floor.