The funeral of President George H.W. Bush played out in Houston and Washington, D.C. this week. In a move both old-fashioned and brilliant, the President was carried by train to his final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A & M. The train trip across rural Texas harkened back to simpler times before most of the large crowd was born. The train’s mournful horn alerted the crowd to its arrival into College Station before we could see it. As the train came into sight, the wailing horn felt to me like a clarion call for unity. You can judge for yourself by watching his arrival.
I had a chance encounter with President Bush close to fifty years ago when he was a Congressman in Houston. Congressman Bush had agreed to speak to the Baytown Junior Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner to honor service to the community by local citizens. As President of the organization, I was sitting with Congressman Bush at the head table. He simply dazzled me with his humility. To be honest I did not know anything about him before that night. I think I can sum up the man in a simple way. He left Baytown knowing more about me than I about him. In short, he cared about people.
When the opportunity came to pay respects to our fallen leader yesterday, how could I not go? Kathy and I briefly discussed the bad weather, the terrible roads from Austin to College Station and agreed they didn’t matter. Had we not gone I would have regretted it forever. The thrill of waiting for the train, the interaction with the crowd, and need for closure produced a raw human experience. It was summed up nicely by two fellows in the crowd as the train pulled to a stop in front of us. The crowd became absolutely still and then President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush came out on the platform of their rail car and waved to the crowd. It was reminiscent of how I suspect President George H.W. Bush would have acted, thinking of others first. A subdued voice called out, “We love you, sir.” Then there was a more robust voice that shouted, “We love you.” The Bushes waved back vigorously.
My hope for this country is that we use this moment to agree that we have differences, but we can discuss them without shrill outside voices. We gathered together as citizens of the United States to honor a man of honor and service. He was a man who reached across the aisle and fostered personal relationships with all he met. God Bless George Bush and these United States.