This past week, our forty-first president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush did something extraordinary. He spent the afternoon skydiving. That would not have been such a notable event except for the fact that he jumped out of that plane on his 85th birthday. Granted, it was a tandem jump which means that he jumped attached together with an experienced skydiver, but that is still quite an accomplishment. I watched the news today where a reporter interviewed several elderly folks who are also in their eighties and asked how many of them would like to jump out of an airplane for fun. There were no takers. However, several of them were up for some shuffleboard and square dancing. It is just a fact that what George H. did at his age is something special. It was reported that George senior’s entire family was on the ground waiting for him to land to celebrate the jump. They were also there for two previous jumps that he made on his 75th and 80th birthdays as well. Upon successfully completing this jump last week, he also announced that he plans on taking a swan dive out of an airplane on his 90th birthday if he is still alive and breathing. I admire this guy and his spunk. I have always admired George Bush #41 for several other reasons. First and foremost, I love the family man that he is. I have seen several interviews with him and his wife Barbara in which he tears up so easily when discussing anything having to do with his family. The interviewer may be asking questions about his children or his grandchildren or about Barbara herself, and on several occasions, George Bush’s eyes will well up before the interview is over. To me, that speaks volumes about a husband and a father. When a man gets all emotional speaking about those that he loves the most, I know that is a guy who is genuine, who is real and whose family counts the most in his life. I am not saying that all men who love their families always get emotional when speaking about them, but when one does, it rings true. I have read that George H. Bush was once asked what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment in his life and without flinching, without missing a beat, he answered “My children still come home.” He was president of the United States of America yet in his mind that accomplishment pales in comparison to the fact that he and his wife still enjoy a healthy, solid and close relationship with their adult children.

 

        Another reason that this man has always impressed me is that he was the vice president and successor to one of the greatest presidents of our country who had a personality bigger than life. Ronald Reagan is a personal hero to many, and his charisma as both an actor and a politician was incredibly strong and overwhelming. As the number two man working underneath of and then following Ronald Reagan, I always remember him as nothing but fiercely loyal and dedicated to Reagan as vice president and then always handling himself in nothing but a classy manner when he was president even though Reagan was a hard act to follow. I recall interviews when he was asked about harsh criticism that he had encountered concerning how he was governing as president. Whether I agreed with his policies or decisions or not, I remember the gracious spirit and the self deprecating humor that he always seemed to exhibit.

 

        I have also watched several interviews with both his children and his grandchildren and very few of them were able to speak about their father and their grandfather without struggling with their own emotions and  becoming choked up about what he meant to them. There are many men in this world who have accomplished great feats in their professional lives, but have been miserable failures in their personal lives and because of that, those men are not successes. My pastor has said several times that he does not care what a man has accomplished in his profession, if that man has failed as a husband and as a dad, then he cannot be viewed as a success and I totally agree with that statement. In this area, George Bush senior has succeeded where others have not.

 

        When he was elected president, one of the first ideals that he called for was for America to become a “kinder and gentler nation.”  It was an appeal that was needed in that day and in my opinion is still needed even more today. We seem to be a people who are angry, tense and on edge much of the time. I am pointing the finger to myself as well in this area of needing to be more patient, relaxed and just more kind in general. So many of us can become agitated and cross so quickly and one of President Bush’s pleas with all Americans at the time of his presidency was to attempt to slow down, be still, be quiet, and be kind to one another. This trait, this sense of quiet wellness and serenity actually shines through in every personal interview that I have seen him give which is why I think he is a guy who walked the talk when it came to leading by example.

 

        I seriously doubt if he will go down in the Historical record books as one of our strongest, most influential or most memorable presidents. He may not have had the same force of personality as his predecessor and several other presidents. To me, however, he is one of my personal heroes because of the inner man that he has always seemed to be. Admittedly, I do not know him personally and can only arrive at conclusions from news and interview segments that I have watched, but I believe that my assessments and conclusions about the man are correct. He is someone who possesses that crucial balance of a man who is inwardly and outwardly tough, but not afraid to be tender. I smiled the other day as the news showed him landing perfectly from that tandem jump and as I watched his huge, excited family cheering, clapping, and running out to hug him and congratulate their husband, their dad, and their grandpa, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was feeling inside.  He looked very excited and so thrilled to have soared out of that plane and into the air on the day that he turned eighty-five years old and he deserved to feel a pride and a sense of accomplishment. I even clapped as I watched him land and I hope to be able to watch him do it again five years from now when he turns ninety years old. What an inspiration and an example of continuing to press on and challenge one’s self in spite of getting older. Am I ready to jump out of a plane? Absolutely not. But I marvel at him for doing so and for the man that he is to those who love him the most. That is what is most important and to his credit, he figured that out a very long time ago. Congratulations President Bush #41 and we will see you on your ninetieth! Just make sure the fellow behind you pulls that chord so we can then look forward to your 100th!