George HW Bush was one of a small number of Republican US presidents since WW2 who I do not recall as being regarded with great trepidation by the rest of the world. Bush still lives in Houston with wife Barbara, and it was apparent from the recent superbowl in Houston how affectionately they are regarded locally. We made the day trip to visit the presidential library for this the 41st US president, in College Station, Texas.
This rather grand building lies in the campus of the enormous and rather drab Texas A&M University. The museum is efficiently run, and well staffed with enthusiastic volunteers, well laid out with introductory video and audio guide – the US does such museums well. The presidential library itself is not accessible to the general public.
The story of the first George Bush’s presidency is told well; both from a family perspective, where I learned a lot; and from a political perspective, where I was familiar with many of the events having lived through them via the media of the day. It was like going back in time.
What particularly came over was the importance of family and family life for George and Barbara Bush, and their dedication to public service. Once they had made money from the oil industry, they provide good exemplars of people who, having made money, duly give back to society.
An ethical approach to life is evident in the work George did in trying to bring a more ethical approach to Congressional politics. A shame that current generations appear to have not lived up to this.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the key events of this presidency, and there is an excellent memorial statue outside in the open air, vividly suggesting the freedoms that were enabled.
Another key event was the first Iraq war following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Not mentioned is the mess that was left behind, that the second George Bush attempted to sort out with disastrous effect.
There is no mention at all of George HW’s biggest failing in the eyes of many – the sabotaging of any prospect of meaningful progress in combatting global warming at the Rio summit of 1992. How different the world might now be had he, an oil man, had the courage to lead the world into taking action then, rather than siding with the rearguard action of the oil industry where he made his money. 25 years on the consequences are becoming clear.
If you decide to visit the museum, the Village Cafe in nearby Bryan does an excellent lunch of reasonable, rather than typical American gargantuan, proportions!