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Senator Blunt Honors Life and Service of President George H.W. Bush

Today, Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt spoke on the Senate floor to honor the life and service of President George H.W. Bush. In his remarks, Blunt talked about the Bush family’s Missouri ties and some of the times they spent together in the state.

Following are Excerpts From Blunt’s Remarks:

“Certainly in Missouri, we claim part of the Bush family. His mother grew up in Missouri. The Walkers were from Missouri, and he treated Missouri like it was one of the states that he was connected to by relationship. His uncle Herbert, along with his grandfather and later his uncle Herbert and the rest of the family, would go in the summer to Walker’s Point, named after that Missouri part of his family, just like the Walker’s Cup is named after that part of his family. The impact of his mother is pretty great. I heard the president talking the other day on an interview with Jenna Bush about who he would look for when he got to heaven and that was a couple years ago I think, and he said, well, if Barbara has gone there first, I think the right answer would be, I’m going to look for her first. But then he said, and I think my mom and my dad. He said their daughter that they had lost when she was three, Robin, but his mother was an important part of his life. And you could tell that in talking to him or his children that remembered their grandmother and you could see a lot of what she taught him in him. …

“Another part of his upbringing was sort of the upbringing of, in many ways, the best values of that World War II generation. Stand up straight, take responsibility, share credit, take blame. Those were all part of who George Herbert Walker Bush had become. That idea that you should do what you’re supposed to do; that idea of the importance of service to others. … If you’re going to be part of the team, but if you’re President Bush, I heard Jon Meacham, his biographer say, that he tried to kind of get into the depth of that. What about this commitment to service and aren’t there lots of ways to do that, and can’t you have service without recognition? But President Bush, understanding the conflict actually in what he believed and the profession he had pursued, said, ‘well, there’s nothing wrong if you’re going to be on the team to want to be captain of the team.’ Whether it is captain of the Yale baseball team, which he was, or President of the United States. The Yale baseball team, Mr. President, leads me to another thing that you and I know when we think about him, the willingness as a young man to serve and to serve immediately. In fact, at 17, still in high school, after Pearl Harbor, he talked about going to Canada to join the Canadian Air Corps because you could do that at 17, but in our country you couldn’t join the Air Corps until 18. … And he was persuaded by, I assume, his mom and dad and others, well, ‘let’s finish high school. Let’s finish high school first and then when you’re 18, you can join the U.S. Air Corps,’ which he did, I believe, on his 18th birthday or really close to his 18th birthday, to become then the youngest aviator in the war at the time he got his flying credentials and serving in that way. That was part of that generation.

“But then the war is over and he and Barbara get married right before the end of the war and then he goes to college. Then he goes to college. That young man with a wife and a baby goes to college, becomes the captain of the baseball team. A man of really always great athletic ability, great grace in so many ways, grace under pressure, grace with others, but grace in sports as well and the ability to do that. Now, when you’re the captain of the Yale baseball team, you can talk a lot about the team instead of yourself. When you decide to enter politics, there’s an almost total contradiction between pursuing political office and not talking about yourself. It just doesn’t quite work that way, you have to be willing to do that and you could always see in President Bush that reluctance to cross the line his mother had taught him and talk about himself. Talk about the accomplishments and even at his best he was held back in many ways by that reluctance to what he would see as bragging on himself, but his public service was significant and broad based. I believe you could make the case that perhaps no one had ever been better prepared to be president than George Herbert Walker Bush. …

“He was a man of appreciation and thank you notes and sympathy notes, and that network of friends and family eventually became very important. Now, where I live in Missouri, we were the ultimate bellwether state for about 100 years. … But for 100 years we voted from 1904 to 2004, we voted for the winner every time but one. So that last 20 years of that time period very much is the time period where President Bush 41 and Bush 43, for that matter, were part of national politics. So Missouri would have been a significant place for him anyway, but his brother lived there, his younger brother Bucky, who passed away in the last few years. Future Ambassador Burt Walker was there. Lots of sort of interrelated and connected family members. So we saw candidate Bush and then Vice President Bush and then President Bush in our state a lot. I was the elected secretary of state when he was vice president and was the secretary of state when he was president, and so I had the chance to benefit from knowing him, the chance to go to Walker’s Point a few times, to go to church with the Bushes. And if you were with the Bushes on a Sunday, either you were going to be left by yourself or you were going to go to church because that was as much a part of who President Bush was as anything else, maybe a bigger part than anything else. He said in his faith, the Episcopal faith, maybe he wasn’t as sharing publicly of his faith, but he was absolutely, Mr. President, committed to his faith. In fact, a chapel, he raised the money to build a chapel at Camp David during his presidency. …

“The Missouri connection goes a little bit further. Not only did Missouri vote for President Bush in 1988… But after Desert Storm, President Bush looked around to find a place to do the first 4th of July parade after Desert Storm and he came to Marshfield, Missouri, in the county where I was born, in Webster County. I was going to be the grand marshal of the parade that year, as I recall, but when it became apparent that the president wanted to come to be in that parade, I was more than willing to concede that he should be the grand marshal of that parade and walked not too far behind him. And then in 1992 after the convention, I believe the first kickoff, the first campaign kickoff was at Branson, Missouri, and I had the chance to be there with him. We went to a country music show at the Moe Bandy Theater, and Loretta Lynn was sitting with the president and Mrs. Bush, and their good friend from Texas Moe Bandy was performing, and that was a part of America and a part of our music that the president loved. …

“There was nowhere in that matrix that I just talked about where President Bush didn’t leave with more friends than he had when he came, and friends in many times that he figured out how to develop a lifelong connection to. All of us could use more of that skill. …

“Let me just say, in terms of preparation and how it paid off, CIA Director, a Member of Congress, one of the very first envoys to China before we had official relationships, the envoy to the United Nations, Vice President of the United States, making connections and contacts and friendships. …

“And then, Mr. President, the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have just enough time now to look back and I’ve heard many others in the last few days talk about how that could have gone so badly wrong for all of the other countries that were trying to emerge from the domination of Russia and the Soviet Union. But George Herbert Walker Bush, on the phone, reaching out, talking to leaders, seeing the things that had just been predicted by the West Germans themselves to be impossible, that somehow East Germany could become part of West Germany, is exactly what happened. The president encouraged, stood beside, went out of the way to be sure that Helmut Kohl, the leader of West Germany, had the kind of support that he and his government needed to reach out and bring this country that had been isolated for 40 years, this part of the country back into the country, that all of these East European countries that were emerging from Soviet domination had a chance to move from domination to democracy. That would not have happened the way it happened if somebody less prepared and less capable had been there.”

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