I first saw George H. W. Bush at a Fourth of July picnic in Lake Jackson, Texas, a slender young politician in his mid-40s running for congress. He won the election and later served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Vice President with Ronald Reagan before being elected President of the United States. His son, George W. and I are the same age.
I have always been impressed with George H.W. as a man of integrity, honesty, character, courage and faith. He embodied the qualities that Tom Brokaw described as “the greatest generation.” Not least in the legacy of President Bush was his devotion to his wife, Barbara and the support they shared in the death of their daughter, Robin.
I saw the same qualities in my father, a blue-collar worker with Bell Telephone who was devoted to my mother, raised 3 sons and served as a deacon in his church. He died at 53 of cancer.
It is good for our nation that we will spend this next week remembering a leader with the qualities of George H.W. Bush. A world awash with lies, accusations, falsehoods, greed, self-serving, prejudice, fear and faithlessness needs to be reminded of the higher standards that can sustain us.
Abraham Lincoln referred to “our better angels.” President Bush referred to “a thousand points of light.” At his 1989 inaugural he said, “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.”
President Bush later spearheaded the formation of the Points of Light Foundation that encourages volunteers to engage solutions for their communities. According to their website, Point of Light has a global network of over 200 affiliates in 35 countries working with thousands of non-profits to mobilize volunteers world-wide.
Most of us will never be rich or famous. All of us, regardless of our occupation or income, can make the world better. Whether we are garbage collectors, janitors, cashiers, factory workers, salesmen, technicians, nurses, maids or executives, we will all leave a legacy. Most of us will have children and grandchildren. We all have classmates, friends and co-workers. Every life counts. Every life makes a difference.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the room. So let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).
In a dark and desperate world, when increasingly it seems people practice dishonesty, deceit and immorality in the shadows of secrecy, perhaps we can heed the legacy of our former President and live in such a way that we turn the world from darkness to light.
As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth let us be reminded that “ In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4).