Remembering President George H. W. Bush

December 10, 2018 GMT

This week, we said goodbye to former President George H. W. Bush after his death at age 94 at his home in Houston. At the time of his wife’s death in April of this year, he and former First Lady Barbara Bush had been married for 73 years, which is the longest presidential marriage in history. President Bush will be remembered for many things, chief among them his governing during the collapse of the Soviet Union and his leadership during the Gulf War.

I appreciate President Bush for his leadership in negotiating and signing NAFTA. Despite being ratified by Congress during the Clinton administration, NAFTA had already been signed when President Clinton took office. In fact, President Bush was one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of free trade to lead the United States.

He believed countries with strong trade ties were less likely to go to war and that economic development was shared by all parties when barriers to trade were lifted. Nearly half of all agricultural products exported from Nebraska, worth around $3 billion annually, are consumed by Canada and Mexico under NAFTA. Its replacement, the USMCA, was signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico on the same day President Bush passed.

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President Bush’s entire life was characterized by humility and selfless service to his country. He served as a Navy pilot in the Pacific Theater of World War II during which he flew 58 combat missions. On one sortie, he was forced to bail out of his badly damaged aircraft. He was rescued several hours later, but the other two members of his crew did not survive. In 1967, President Bush was elected to Congress where he served until President Nixon appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations. He also served as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to China and Director of Central Intelligence, both under President Ford.

President Bush served as vice president under President Reagan for eight years before being elected president himself in 1988. Throughout his presidency, the United States faced a number of challenges to which President Bush rose with the honor, even-temperament, and respect we should all seek to emulate in our day-to-day lives.

I was honored to pay my respects as former President George H. W. Bush’s body laid in state at the U.S. Capitol and to attend his funeral service at the National Cathedral. Eulogies delivered by his son, former President George W. Bush, and others highlighted a number of lessons we should remember as a nation moving forward. My wife and I will continue to keep the Bush family in our prayers as they celebrate the life of a great man who served his country with distinction.