As former President George H.W. Bush is laid to rest Wednesday, federal, state and university offices are closed in remembrance. The service in Washington, D.C. will be attended by all living ex-presidents and current President Donald Trump.
Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and author of the book “When the World Seemed New: George H. W. Bush and the End of the Cold War,” reflects on Bush’s time in office – Bush was elected president 30 years ago this month.
“I think it’s important to think about the ways George Bush embodied a more civil time in American politics, when people, even if they disagreed, could do so respectably, without being disagreeable,” Engel says. “But at the same time, I think it’s also important to note some of the good changes that have occurred since his time in office.”
Engel says politics is more diverse than it was when Bush began his career.
“The type of people who stood in attendance around his casket at that ceremony, representing Congress, looked nothing like when George Bush was in the Congress in the 1960s. And I, for one, think that’s great progress,” Engel says.
Engel says Bush was not an eloquent speaker, and that he recognized that in himself; he asked speechwriters to tone down verbal flourishes. But Engel says the speech Bush gave at his inauguration was one of his best moments.
Engel, who knew Bush, says the former president was always forthcoming when asked about his life, with the exception of Bush’s time as a Navy pilot in World War II, when his plane was shot down. He says the incident, during which members of his crew were killed, haunted Bush.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.