We all mourn a great leader

As I have grown older, I have come to realize that there are very few who can truly be considered as heroes, men and women of integrity and with an unselfish sense of purpose to just simply be a good person. This past week our nation has lost one of these very few men; President George Herbert Walker Bush has left this earth to join the angels in heaven. We have lost a great and honorable man and we will spend the next several days mourning his departure.

Flags will fly at half-staff, eulogies will be written and pronouncements of his greatness will be made from the pulpits, but then what? Once the initial mourning period ends will we just go on without thought of the many things he told us, showed us through his actions, and called on each of us to be a thousand points of light to the world?

Or will we remember the promise he made, but couldn’t keep, “‘Read my lips: no new taxes.”

Will we think of Bush 41 as a one term president? Both of these things may be how some will define him and his legacy, but I chose to think of him as a man who built bridges, not walls. He extended his hand in friendship not as a fist proclaiming power. He worked toward unification. And despite growing up wealthy and living an affluent lifestyle, he was a humble man.

Over the next few days we will be inundated with the many achievements of President Bush 41, so I will not list them here. Rather, I want to focus on some of the important words he lived and left for us to ponder and aspire toward.

For instance, when asked what he felt were keys to success, he responded “courage.” As for the word integrity, he said, “the word integrity means being honest; your word is good for something.” And then there is “perseverance.” He told the reporter interviewing him, “when you are attacked personally you have to basically ignore it.”

There’s a pack mentality today. And one hound gets out in front and the rest of the pack are baying at the heels of whoever it is that’s being pursued. That’s not a good thing. And so, what do you do when you’re under fire? Try to tell the truth. Try to give it your best shot. Don’t take it too personally and get on with your life.

We have lost two men this year who showed true courage, integrity, and perseverance, Sen. John McCain and now President George H.W. Bush. These two men served our country in the armed forces, both during war times. They were selfless in their duty to country; they were politicians and they were leaders, and they believed in the American Dream of achieving all that you can be, living free in the greatest country on earth. And yes, they were politicians.

President Bush is reported to have said, “Some political people do lie all the time, and step over their friend to achieve the objective themselves. But I’m one who believes that one’s word of honor is about one of the most fundamentally important things there is.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all politicians felt that way?

This is the most holy of times of the year, with Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza and the many other religious beliefs and ceremonies taking place this month, it is only fitting that we remember why and what we are celebrating — peace, dedication of faith, belief in something greater than ourselves and goodness. Those are the very things this country was founded upon and what President Bush personified.

How fitting that the Union Pacific locomotive that President Bush rode in, and at the time was marked 4141, will be the same locomotive to escort him to his final resting place here on earth in College Station, Texas. But alas, let us remember that our time here on earth is a journey with death as only a stop along the way toward true life everlasting.

Go with God’s speed, Mr. President!

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com