Civility, service, family,” award-winning cartoonist Marshall Ramsey wrote in the starry sky of his pictorial tribute to the late President George H. W. Bush.
“Today, we remembered a president and what he was capable of being,” Ramsey wrote last week in a discussion of the cartoon. He noted Bush’s overwhelming, and mutual, familial love. He noted his ardent civility. And, he noted Bush’s purposeful commitment to service after two brushes with death, one from Japanese anti-aircraft fire.
At his father’s poignant funeral, former President George W. Bush said, “Dad taught us the public service is noble and necessary, that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values like faith and family.”
Bush biographer Jon Meacham said, “George Herbert Walker Bush was America’s last great solider-statesman, a 20th Century founding father.”
A USA Today headline proclaimed, “George H. W. Bush’s funeral services stand as America’s goodbye to the Greatest Generation.”
Author and former news anchor Tom Brokaw, coined the phrase “the greatest generation” in his book of the same name about veterans who served in WWII, an accomplished generation composed of heroes as well ordinary citizens.
“It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices,” wrote Brokaw. “It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order.”
Ramsey’s chosen attributes to highlight — civility, service and family — fit Bush and others I hold dear from that generation. Bush’s great friend, the late Congressman G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery was of similar nature and character. Sonny was a man of strong faith and integrity renowned for his positive patriotism and commitment to stay the course on any major undertaking. He loved people and had an uncanny ability to relate to those from all walks of life. He was particularly committed to serve every veteran and active duty soldier.
I was blessed to have a father from that generation with such traits. Oh, he was no hero or noted leader, he was just a humble citizen who served in the war and was civil in the most difficult times to people from all walks of life. He was committed to serving his fellowman and had that overwhelming and mutual love with family and friends. I still remember Pop’s 75thbirthday when so many turned out to express that love and affection.
“We’re supposed to be snarky and pick social media fights with people who slight us,” wrote Ramsey. “That’s the way of the 21st century, right?”
“After watching the funeral today, I don’t think so,” he concluded.
“The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend, George Bush,” eulogized former Sen. Alan Simpson.
“He had perseverance and strength of character, tempered always with humility and compassion,” eulogized Mack Fleming in 2006, one of Sonny’s former staff members.
These eulogies and Bush’s funeral remind me of my father and many other ordinary citizens of that generation who personified what my music minister calls Jesus’ “others first” message to a “me first” world.
Thanks, Marshall, for the reminder of what we Americans have been and are capable of being… no, what we should be.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.
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