By Rachel Bussett
I was saddened to hear of the passing of George H.W. Bush this last weekend. His death made me think a lot about the legacy we leave behind as professionals and people.
George H.W. Bush was the 41st president of the United States, father of the 43rd president and of a governor of Fla., head of the CIA, a Navy aviator, a U.S. Representative, an Ambassador and a businessman.
Though I didn’t always agree with his politics (and to be 100 percent fair, I’ve yet to find anyone who’s politics I fully agree with), I was always impressed with who he was as a man and his dedication to our country. I think it’s a mark of extremely good character when individuals can disagree on controversial political topics yet remain friendly with one another. His relationship with the 42nd President, Bill Clinton, was a demonstration of that character.
While the Reagan/Mondale presidential election was the first election I recall being aware of, the Bush/Dukakis election was the first race that I ever had an actual understanding of the politics. It was an eye opening experience in the democratic process and timely with where I was in junior high school learning about American History. The 41st presidency took me from junior high into high school and in many ways shaped who I am today as a lawyer.
Bush was president when the Berlin Wall fell. While Ronald Reagan may have said “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall,” George H.W. Bush brought down the wall in November of 1989. I was sitting in history class when we heard about it happening. For the first time since World War II, Germans could move freely across their country.
I saw firsthand the spread of democracy. This built off of the Tiananmen Square incident that happened in June of 1989 when the Chinese government used tanks, military weapons and violence in response to student demonstrations in support of democracy. That was the first time I really understood about people dying to fight for the rights we have here in this country.
During the four years he was president he approved the first Gulf War, he nominated the first African American to the U.S. Supreme Court, he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 into law. He negotiated arms reduction agreements, and he made the first major changes to immigration law in some 50 years with the Immigration Act of 1990.
While the Republican Party is often viewed as not being a friend to minorities and disabilities, George H.W. Bush’s presidency saw the passage of laws that I deal with on a daily basis in my practice.
The first Gulf War broadened my understanding of what it was like for soldiers coming home from Vietnam. As a young person I had a hard time understanding how people could be so hateful to soldiers who were just doing their job in Vietnam.
However, with the Gulf War I got to see firsthand the struggle between loving and supporting our soldiers and disagreeing with the government’s decision to send the troops into combat.
The Bush presidency for me was my first real glimpse of understanding about the world and politics and the turning point from childhood to adulthood. The days seem to get shorter and move faster now as life moves on. The loss of this man is one more indication about my journey in life and makes me think about the legacy that I leave behind.
As we move closer to Christmas and I ponder the loss of this man and his wife this year, I think more and more about how each of us can be one of the thousand points of light spread out across the nation to do good in our community.
Very few of us will ever have the opportunity to influence the world the way George H.W. Bush did with the advances of democracy, civil rights and immigration. However, each of us has the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of friendship, understanding, courtesy and improvement for the good of all. That is what I hope my legacy will be to the world and that is certainly what I think President Bush would want his to be as well. Godspeed Mr. President, you will always be a brilliant point of light to our country.
Rachel Bussett is an Oklahoma City attorney. She can be reached at 405-605-8073 or Rachel@BussettLegal.com