As a part of my recent writing about things I am learning and taking away from different places, I want to share with you some things I took away from a recent visit to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. This was an important visit to me. He was part of the first presidential election that I can recall. He ran against Ronald Reagan in the primaries and later became his running mate as Vice President. He would also win the election for President of the United States in 1988, which was the first year I was eligible to vote. In my adult life, the Bush family has been one of the most prominent names in culture.
There are so many things we could take away from his life and his service, and I certainly have some other notes that I want to remember. But I was walked through this library and museum, there were four things that I think all of us can learn from and grow a little ourselves.
He Loved His Family
First, he loved Barbara. This has been prominently on display for the world to see recently as they both passed away less than one year apart. As the country mourned their passing, one thing that was highlighted over and over again was their love for one another. The letters they wrote to one another over the years showed the depth of the bond that they had. As with any marriage that is strong, that loved spilled over into how they loved their family. It has been said that the best gift a parent can give their children is to love their mother or father well. Not only does it set an example, but it helps them see how much you love them. In spite of pressure-packed schedules their entire married life, they were intentional about time with their family and letting one another know how important they were.
Family Affected How They Treated Others
Their strong family bonds and their love for one another affected how they treated people outside of their family. There are several stories that have been shared over the years from people who had the opportunity to spend time with them and how loved they felt. They treated people with respect and dignity. Even in moments of deep disagreement, there was respect shown. No one is without moments when we fail. But the Bushes have a lifetime of examples of how they treated other people well.
He Gained Lots of Experience
Possibly the one thing I noticed above all else was the fact that we may not have had a president with a more broader palette of experience that “41” as he was affectionately called. He served in the Navy. He started and ran a successful business. He served in the US House of Representatives, as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Liaison to China, Director of the CIA, professor at Rice University, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations and Vice President before becoming President of the United States. That is an extremely broad resume and he most likely would have been president for two terms without Ross Perot running as a third-party candidate. The experience that he gained through each of those jobs allowed him to have a broad impact but also allowed him to have an influence on a large stage. Don’t be afraid to gain a breadth of experience. The broader your experience the better you can lead.
He Did Not Forget People Who Helped Him
Not only did he write notes to Barbara, but 41 was famous for notes that he wrote to everyone. He regularly thanked people for their help or reminded them he was thinking about them. Often these notes were about something that many people had long forgotten. One of the notes on display that stuck out to me was one written to the commander who taught him how to fly in the Navy. He was President at the time, but the note accompanied a photo of one of the planes he learned to fly. He thanked that commander for being so patient with him during training and told him he appreciated him for setting him on a course that would later allow him to become President. He did not have to remember that commander, but he chose to not only remember him but to thank him as well. You did not arrive where you are on your own. Don’t forget the people who helped you get here. Maybe even take the time to tell them.
As I was writing this I remembered an observation my wife Barbara made while we were going through the library. She is going through her own transformation at the moment but she remarked about halfway through as she looked at photos that Barbara Bush never tried to look young or hip. She accepted who she was and loved being a wife and mother. Her hair was white at an early age. She did not try to be on the cutting edge of fashion. By some standards, she even looked “old” in her 40’s. Barbara (my wife) was impressed at how comfortable Barbara Bush was in her own skin. I think it is an area where all of us could grow. Learn to be comfortable with who we are instead of trying to be what we think someone else wants us to be. Wife and mother are two of the most important jobs in the world.
Don’t forget to take an opportunity to reflect every time you have a new experience. You may find certain things you can apply to your own life that will make a difference. Live a life that is constantly growing.