My homeland plunged into mourning with the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. I was not alive yet when he was president (I was born during Clinton), but he was an important man in history and a good president. A man whom those across the aisle saw as a unifier and a good person. He was somebody who would sing musical theater songs walking home from the theater, a man who loved dogs and had a deep relationship with his wife Barbara, who passed away earlier this year.
I'm interning at the great palace of knowledge (the Library of Congress), and from outside the window, I saw the masses gather to pay their final respects to the president. The line wrapped up and down the street four times. When I got in line, it was wrapped up and down the street five times. It was freezing, and my toes and fingers felt it. There were people from every walk of life - old people, young people, and people of every description there for this solemn occasion. I made it into the Capitol in two and a half hours. I was lucky that my wait was "brief," for when I got out at 10 p.m., the line was wrapped seven times and circled around the block. Those people had to wait for four to six hours to enter. As we funneled through the Capitol, I found myself in the Rotunda, a grand and beautiful chamber full of beauty and glory. The architecture is among one of the most stunning in Washington, D.C. It was there that the president's body lay in a flag-draped coffin. As I was there, a blond-haired lady with an older man walked up to salute the coffin. When I left, I signed the guestbook and received a funeral card.
I watched the live stream of his funeral at the National Cathedral where several heads of state, including former Polish President Lech Walesa, Andrzej Duda, Angela Merkel, and others were.
It touched me to hear his son, former President George Bush, give his eulogy. He discussed his father as a human, a reminder to us all that behind every politician, there is a father, a mother, somebody with a heart. At the end of the day, we are all humans trying to make the world a better place. George H.W. Bush was correct - we need a "kinder and gentler nation." These words of wisdom have been ignored, causing us to descend into a hateful world until the day we find enough love and unity to prevent this from happening again. Bush went on to tell stories about how his father had respect for people of many different backgrounds and stood against discrimination. He also taught great lessons on humility and said, "In Washington, take the high road of humility; it is less traveled!" - which goes to show how valuable a bit of humility is!
Another favorite from the funeral was former Senator Simpson's story about seeing Evita with George H.W. Bush and how they walked back singing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina!" It's little moments like this that show that politicians are humans just like us, and they know how to have fun as well. Alas, now "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" is in my head. A historian shared a story about George H.W. Bush in a hospital in Krakow where Bush was almost drawn to tears upon meeting a little boy with leukemia as it reminded him of his daughter who died of that disease. A former Canadian prime minister remarked that whenever George H.W. Bush spoke, the whole world knew they were dealing with a gentleman and gave him mutual respect.
I shall close this observation piece with a quote by George H.W. Bush that Senator Simpson delivered at the funeral: "When the really tough choices come, it's the country, not me; it's not about Democrats or Republicans, it's for our country that I fought for."
This little quote is so timely, especially in dark times like these. It is something that I hope we can all keep in mind - unity, unity, unity! We are experiencing some very turbulent and divisive times. We are assuming the worst out of the intentions of others and not listening to them explain themselves as to why they think what they do. We all want to listen to ourselves and not the explanations of others. We need to start thinking for the good of the republic and for the good of the world. Individualism is wonderful; we must govern ourselves before we govern others. When we are talking about a country, we should always look out for what is good for those around us and what will make this world a better place. I may not have seen eye to eye with George H.W. Bush on everything, but he was a great man.