As the funeral for George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, played out before us on Wednesday, our nation was invited to reflect once again on the core values that undergird our democracy and life together.
What makes a country strong? What makes a people great? How do we face a future that is uncertain and unknown? Those were the questions that the funeral of President Bush asked us to think about.
We were reminded by the various eulogists that this had been the president who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This is the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It has helped transform the way persons with disabilities are able to interact and function in society—including access to jobs, schools, transportation, and all places that are open to the general public.
Bush biographer Jon Meacham summarized the Bush legacy when he compared our 41st president to our 16th president: “Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear, and to heed not our worst impulses, but our best instincts.”
But it was another president who said it best. President George W. Bush, our 43rd president, was both eloquent and emotional in describing his father: “Dad taught us that public service is noble and necessary; that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values, like faith and family. He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lived. He recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul.”
These are ideas and a legacy that challenge each of us. It was a fitting farewell to one who sought to live by them.