At George H.W. Bush's memorial service in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda - one of three services to come this week - Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan all gave remarks. In the latter's speech, one touching detail stood out.
Ryan began recounting images of the late president that stood out in his memory. "There’s that indelible image of him as Commander in Chief during the gulf war, waving to a sea of troops during a visit during Thanksgiving," he said. "There are all these images we have of him as a devoted husband. That twinkle in his eye that Barbara always brought out, especially in those big huge family photos you all had in Kennebunkport."
He then landed on one photo in particular. "This one I will never forget. There was that image of him as a loving father, reaching out to hold his son’s hand at the National Cathedral after 9/11." Indeed, the photograph is compelling. Barbara Bush smiles at the pair as they comfort each other in a time of national disaster - both as a former and current president, and as a father and son.
Ryan connected that moment, likely among the most difficult times of his son's presidency, to one of the impossible decisions that George H.W. Bush had to make as Commander in Chief.
"There’s this letter he wrote to his children at the end of 1990, as he wrestled with the decision over Operation Desert Storm," Ryan said. "He begins by recounting the family Christmas, and apologizes if he seems distracted. 'I tried not to be,' he writes. Then for about a page, he elaborates on his struggle over sending young Americans into harm’s way. Twice in the letter, he writes 'every human life is precious.' On the original copy, he adds a handwritten note [and] wishes his family a New Year."
"In consequential times, George Herbert Walker Bush demonstrated the finest qualities of our nation and of human kind," Ryan concluded. "A great leader and a good man."
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