President George H.W. Bush
The motorcade moved cautiously down the street, carrying the body of the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, where it would be placed on Air Force One, arrive at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. and lie in state for three days. It was the last “goodbye” for many people crowding the Texas streets—a goodbye for those who saw him as a friend, neighbor and countryman…well before they welcomed him as a president.
Hours later, the plane arrived…family, friends and countrymen moved quietly and reverently from it. All eyes were on the casket as it was lifted into eight pairs of waiting military arms. A 21-gun salute burst through the silence, welcoming a fallen hero, and the military band accented the occasion with “My Country Tis of Thee.” I lay there, watching intensely, feeling a deep sense of compassion and loss… I hardly knew the man, but what I felt was… he was my president—a president of all the people, black, white, red, yellow. I wasn’t a Republican … I was an American, and this President made me feel he represented me because I was an American. Many of his policies did not match the direction I felt the country should go, but at no time did I feel isolated from this country I claimed as my own.
Inside the Capitol, speeches were made, songs were sung, and memories re-kindled. It was a solemn atmosphere, even though one speaker attempted to “lighten the mood,” and failed. This was not the time…this was not the place…this was not the man… for lightheartedness. This was a moment of honor, respect and reflection of times past—times when being President meant nothing common, disrespectful, disjointed and disgraceful. Many words were spoken, but the underlying message was the same: “He was a good man—a man of grace, honor, respect, kindness and one who loved his country.”
As I stared at those who took the microphone, listened to the words, it seemed so long ago that those words were used to describe America’s President, but a voice whispered, “It’s been less than two years.” The accolades given this man, were in marked contrast to the adjectives that describe the current President. The aura surrounding the presidency has been tarnished, diminished and lessened. How do we get it back? What has our country become? How deeply have we shattered our values, ripped to shreds our respect for lawfulness and made “truth” a foreign word?
“My Country Tis of Thee” no longer fits in today’s climate, but “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” does:
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
It fits, because that is all we have to bring us back from the brink of corruption, lawlessness, divisiveness and chaos. God is our defense, the wall of righteousness that separates us from the flood of inequality, injustice and racism. America…where is your beauty? Where is your “sweet land of liberty?”
As we give respect and honor to 41st President Bush, let us regroup, refocus and re-define “liberty and justice for all,” and rise above the “mortal ills, armed with cruel hate” and stand behind the “bulwark never failing.”