Our nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush, took his final breath on Friday, November 30th. While tributes pour in about his political career and presidential accomplishments, how about a breath of fresh air? Let’s hear some interesting things about George Bush the man.
Although 41 was a president, he was like the average American in many ways. He had personal likes and dislikes, and one of his most famous dislikes was of a green veggie–broccoli. His mother made him eat that vile (to him–I love it) veggie, but finally he could take it no longer. In March 1990 he announced, “I am president of the United States and I am not going to eat any more broccoli.” Now we know why growing up to be president is such a common desire of school children–become president and ditch a disliked veggie.
As a result of Bush’s proclamation, broccoli was banned from being served to the president on Air Force One or in the White House. There’s was just one catch. 41 was not the only one in the family eating dinner. First Lady Barbara Bush apparently enjoyed eating broccoli. She even conspired with the president’s personal chef, Ariel De Guzman, to serve a yummy (to Barbara and the rest of the family) broccoli salad with golden raisins, toasted sunflowers, red onions, and a creamy dressing. Nope! 41 was having none of it. He only picked up the bowl of salad to pass it on to other family members who desired second helpings. If 41 had emphatically proclaimed, “Read my lips, I will not eat broccoli,” we would believe he would keep that promise.
Not only was 41 a president, but he was related to royalty. Genealogical research determined that he and Queen Elizabeth were 13th cousins. While that connection may not be close enough to be considered “kissing cousins,” 41 and Her Majesty did get along. In fact, Queen Elizabeth liked her cuz so much that she knighted him in 1993. But he was an American cousin, so 41 was not required to kneel to her nor was he allowed to refer to himself as “Sir.”
When 41 wasn’t making millions in the oil business or busy in the political arena, he was into sports. As a college student at Yale, the future president played on the baseball team, mainly at first base. He was even elected team captain, perhaps an omen of future election success. Bush’s team was so good that they made it to the College World Series twice, losing both times.
41’s love of baseball continued into his adult life. When his distant British cousin, Queen Elizabeth came to the U.S. on a state visit in 1991, 41 took her out to the ballpark in Baltimore. No word on whether he bought her peanuts and Cracker Jack, but she did meet the Orioles and Athletics in the home team dugout. Baseball probably wasn’t Her Majesty’s cup of tea as the visit to the ballpark only lasted a couple of innings.
When he had a rough day at the Oval Office, 41 might have pulled open a desk drawer to cheer himself up. There he kept a worn Rawlings first baseman’s mitt. He pulled this treasured item out on April 3, 1989 when he traveled to Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and became the first president to throw a ceremonial first pitch from the mound. He may have had so much fun that he didn’t care if he ever went back to the Oval Office. He did go back to the ballpark numerous times, becoming a fixture at Houston Astros games.
Life did throw some curve balls at 41. In his later years, he developed Parkinson’s and was confined to a wheelchair. He turned this lemon into lemonade by using his condition as a springboard for showcasing his crazy socks. From his seated position in a wheelchair, his ankles were clearly visible as were his amusing ankle coverings. When Bill Clinton paid a visit to his fellow former president, 41 marked the occasion by wearing socks with Bill’s face on them. Bush tweeted that he made sure that the socks were clean for Bill’s visit. When 41’s beloved wife Barbara died, he wore special socks to her funeral service–ones bearing stacks of books in honor of her passion for promoting literacy. As his soul ascends heavenwards, 41 will be laid to rest wearing gray socks with Naval aviator wings and a squadron of soaring jets.
Left behind when 41 departed his earthly life was his service dog Sully. The yellow Labrador retriever, obtained shortly after Barbara Bush’s death, was named for hero airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Sully was a faithful companion who was trained to perform two pages of commands, including answering the telephone. It’s not clear if Sully could take phone messages in addition to answering the phone, but, hey, some humans cannot even handle that task.
Sully was not 41’s first dog. 41 had presidential pets while living in the White House. His dog Mildred “Millie,” an English Springer Spaniel, has been dubbed the most famous presidential pet. She was so special that when she gave birth to a litter of six puppies, an Army veterinarian was called to attend her. Millie even authored a book which Barbara Bush may have helped her with just a bit. And Millie was politically astute as well. During 41’s 1992 re-election campaign, President Bush dissed Bill Clinton and Al Gore by commenting that “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”
As our nation mourns the loss of a former president, 41’s distinguished career will be recounted. While historically it is important to be mindful of his positions and accomplishments, let’s not forget that a man has died. He was a loving husband (of 73 years!), a devoted dad of six, a sports enthusiast, and a pet owner. His last words were not political; they were, “I love you too” to his son, George W. Bush, our 43rd president. Politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, are humans first. Don’t make any of them one-dimensional by labeling them simply a politician. A politician is more than his political career; he is first and foremost a human being.
Just WONDER-ing: What do you remember best about President Bush? Does knowing personal information about a politician give you a better insight into who he is? On his stand on the issues?