Last month the world bade farewell to George H.W. Bush. The 41st President of the United States will forever be remembered as a man with strong values and a defender of principles. We’re taking a quick retrospect into his personal life, style, and the qualities that made him a respectable leader.

A Man of Dedication

George HW Bush in US Navy
George H.W. Bush, U.S. Navy 1943 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Born in Massachusetts and raised in Connecticut, Bush learned leadership at an early age. At Phillips Academy, where he attended high school, he was senior class president, secretary of the student council, and captain of the baseball and soccer teams. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a pilot shortly after his eighteenth birthday. After being shot down in his aircraft, he was rescued by a submarine at sea. This miraculous event was captured on camera. Surviving the ordeal strengthened Bush’s faith in a higher power, believing he was spared for a reason.

After the war, he enrolled at Yale. Following his education, he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Texas to raise a family. Unfortunately, after the birth of their first son, they lost their three-year-old daughter Pauline Robinson to leukemia. However, the Bushes didn’t let the tragedy destroy their spirits. Bush worked to keep his family strong and never lost his faith.

A Man of Values

George HW Bush in front of American flag
George H.W. Bush

During his presidency, Bush was seen as a sensible leader. He was always composed and opted to solve problems in reasonable ways. Prior to his election, he promised the country there would be no new taxes. Reagan, however, administered huge tax cuts during his presidency. As a result, Bush was burdened with large deficits and was forced to compromise his stance.

Despite the broken promise, Bush is still admirable for his principles. He was an advocate for volunteerism, forming the Points of Light organization. This foundation strived to strengthen relations around the world and build a community of peace. Bush described the lights as the “souls of America” reaching out to help those in need.

Bush was also a defender of family values, famously stating he wished Americans were more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons. This lead to a light-hearted feud between the presidency and the showrunners. However, it was resolved when the First Lady corresponded with Marge Simpson herself.

A Man of Decency

George HW Bush and Bill Clinton building shelter
George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in Weligama, Sri Lanka

In 1992, Bush ran for office again, but graciously conceded defeat to Bill Clinton. He took the opportunity to ease into retirement, dedicating his time to fishing and skydiving. He also became the second U.S. president to have a son follow in his footsteps and become president. But retiring didn’t stop his efforts at making the world a better place.

In 2004, he teamed up with Bill Clinton to help victims of an earthquake that rattled the Indian Ocean. Both former presidents also managed relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, Bush and Clinton worked together with Barack Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Bush never believed the service to his country came to an end. He always knew helping the world was bigger than any political dispute.

“You can be political opponents and still work together for something more important than your own political future.” – George H.W. Bush

A Man of Class

George HW Bush in suit
George H.W. Bush

Bush was often criticized by the public for dressing too preppy. But given that he was an Ivy League graduate, he did have a reputation to uphold. However, he wasn’t as uptight as people thought.

George HW Bush sitting on outdoor couch with dog
George H.W. Bush 1980

Here he is lounging with his dog Fred outside their home in 1980. A bit different than you expected, right? During the final few years of his life, Bush was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had to rely on a wheelchair for mobility. Knowing that his ankles would be on prominent display, he decided to show his appreciation for colorful socks.

George H.W. Bush Wearing Superman Socks
George H.W. Bush Superman Socks

For his 89th birthday, Bush wore socks with the Superman logo on them. The George Bush Foundation even asked people to tweet photos of themselves wearing colorful and outlandish socks with the hashtag 41s89th. Thousands of people showed their love by sending in photos to the former president. Eventually, Bush was laid to rest in socks that paid tribute to his time as a WWII Navy pilot.

A Man of Respect

George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush
George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush

Even after his wife Barbara passed away in early 2018, Bush maintained a positive outlook on life. The pair had been married for 73 years, the longest marriage in presidential history. He was once quoted as saying:

“I just want to get up into heaven and I don’t get there by bragging on myself. My mother told me that years ago.”

George H.W. Bush was a respectable leader and a decent man until the very end. His modesty, values, and love of life are reflected in his legacy. Those positive qualities are all things we can aspire to.