George H.W. Bush: A Unifier In Life And In Death

Exclusive op-ed from Paris Dennard who served in President George W. Bush's White House.

Credit: Shealah Craighead | White House Photo Office

Even in death, President George H.W. Bush remains a unifying force. As we mourn the passing of President Bush, we should take solace from the knowledge that it’s times like these that bring us together and remind us what patriotism really looks like.

I saw firsthand how President Bush’s conciliatory nature blended with hard-nosed pragmatism to achieve consensus even on bitterly divisive issues. On a daily basis, he reminded us that compromise isn’t a dirty word and that love of country transcends party lines.

The late President always understood that there are two sides to every story, and he ran the White House with an open door policy, allowing staff members to present both sides of the issue and listened attentively to their arguments and counter-arguments before making a final decision.

He made an art form out of dealing with people in a way that let them know he respected their views while never letting them forget that he was the one in charge.

President Bush also displayed the same grace and humility to the very end, even as blind partisanship consumed so many others in the political arena. Indeed, he made sure that his death would itself serve as a call to conciliation — something that shouldn’t surprise anyone who had the privilege of knowing George Bush.

Before he died, Bush personally insisted that President Trump be invited to his funeral — an extraordinarily magnanimous gesture from a man who just two years ago watched Donald Trump end his son Jeb’s presidential aspirations over the course of a contentious primary battle.

As his family made clear, George Bush didn’t want his funeral to be used as a political spectacle, but as a time to “reflect on the commonalities that we have rather than the differences.”

That attitude was contagious in Washington this week, as evidenced by the outpouring of praise for President Bush from people on both sides of the political aisle as the nation bid farewell to its 41st President.

President Trump, for his part, couldn’t have done more to accommodate the Bush family during their time of grieving, availing the full services of the White House to properly honor his predecessor. While such courtesies are expected by the American people, this exchange of acts of respect were especially welcome at a time when were honoring the memory of one of America’s most conciliatory and noble occupants of the White House.

In some of the most divided times in our nation’s history, maybe the death of a former president is the antidote to the discord we see in our country on a daily basis. President Bush was a unifier during his lifetime, and, unsurprisingly,  remains so in death.

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Paris Dennard served as the associate director for coalitions at the Republican National Committee from 2009-11 and worked in the President George W. Bush White House.