WWS Reacts: Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Dec 05 2018
By B. Rose Kelly
Topics Politics
Source Woodrow Wilson School

This week, the country mourns the loss of George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, who passed away Nov. 30 at the age of 94. His funeral is being held today at the Washington National Cathedral.

Below are a few reflections about President Bush from faculty at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

“George H.W. Bush is rightly remembered for the foreign policy leadership of his administration, which successfully dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the building of a multilateral coalition to free Kuwait from Iraq. However, his administration also has an impactful domestic legacy that includes the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act of 1990 and the 1990 Immigration Act. In all three of these domestic areas, these acts continue to influence policymaking on the ground today.”

Brandice Canes-Wrone, vice dean of the Woodrow Wilson School and Donald E. Stokes Professor of Public and International Affairs and professor of politics

“Much has been said about George H.W. Bush’s legacy of selflessness, duty, country before party and how much he valued expertise and experience in addition to loyalty. Those rare and important leadership qualities are ironically part of what cost him a second term. He also loved his family. I met President and Mrs. Bush in November 2016 when I presented my research on first ladies as part of the ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series at the Bush Library. What struck me most about them in person was their obvious love and devotion to one another. It pervades even the briefest interactions with them. (I still have a thank you note in my office Mrs. Bush wrote me after I sent some gifts to the Bushs' dogs Bibi and Mini that I am happy to share; it has her trademark self-deprecating humor). Although 41’s shadow did, at times, loom in his son's presidency — for example, in their shared view that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace — he was careful not to impose himself on it. George W. Bush famously publicly called the Iraqi regime lead by Hussein ‘evil’ in his 2002 State of the Union speech; George H.W. Bush privately dictated the same to his diaries, characterizing Hussein as ‘the epitome of evil.’ Fred Greenstein, whom I know the Princeton community is also mourning today, actually wrote one of my favorite quotes comparing George H.W. Bush and his son. George W. Bush's presidency suffered from ‘having a vision’ whereas his father's suffered ‘for lacking one.’”

— Lauren Wright, lecturer of public and international affairs

“President George H.W. Bush embodied a value that seems to be vanishing from our nation: public service. Love or hate his politics, most politicians who worked with Bush valued his deep commitment to government. And few would challenge the argument that he devoted his entire life to the public arena. He was part of a generation in American politics when working for the government was a virtue, not a vice.”

Read the full tribute by Julian Zelizer, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs