Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018

How George H. W. Bush used handwritten notes to thank his values

Former President George H. W. Bush at the 2008 Republican National Convention. (Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg News)

Nothing was too small, too personal or too easily overlooked to deserve a handwritten thank you letter from George H. W. Bush, who died Friday night at the age of 94.

At Frito-Lay, he wrote his "sincere thanks for all these pork rinds".

For the Navy who dropped her rifle during a parade at the Marine Barracks, in front of her Commander-in-Chief and First Lady Barbara Bush, Bush wrote, "I want to thank you, you and the other members of the peloton, for this superb performance. . . . Thank you for thanking everyone involved in the exercise. "

To his granddaughter, the day of his birth: "I am a happy Gampy because you are here."

Bush was one of the great letter writers of the modern era. This old-fashioned virtue became his hallmark, an engaging and pragmatic practice, as he fostered warm relationships with world leaders, his potential allies and even his opponents. He knew that compassion and good manners help a person build strong and positive relationships with others. He believed deeply in the diplomatic conviction that a leader should make friends and not enemies. And this leadership and civility are mutually reinforcing.

When former President Jimmy Carter wrote Saturday in a statement that "the Bush administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience," we can rely on the thank you notes of the 39, former president.

In them, it is also clear that the behavior of politicians has been simplified since its time. Bush and Donald Trump both grew up in extremely wealthy families on the east coast. Both passed from the CEO to the White House (although Bush's resume is full of other moves along the way). However, the late Bush had taken a totally different view of himself and the way he wanted to be seen. This has been reflected in the way he wanted to see the country. All his letters are traces of the "kindest and kindest nation" he has named in his inaugural speech – not just traces, but the footsteps of a man in that direction, in turn firm, tender and sincere.

"I felt the tears of Bush (we cry a lot)," the president wrote to Mike Deland, a leader of the disability movement, after signing the Americans with Disabilities Act. While he was watching the audience that day, he wrote to Deland, he felt "tears of gratitude for your example, for your enthusiasm and for your presence at my side".

He spent most of his time writing cards and words of thanks. He wrote so much that they fill a 700-page book entitled "All the best, George Bush," which serves him as a memoir. Bush found the idea of ​​writing about himself unpleasant. Modesty was rooted in him, a legacy of his wealthy Connecticut financial education, which emphasized restraint and good manners. It is also the basis of his thousands of thanks and other notes he wrote during his long career.

It was also a good policy.

"He would send congratulations to a foreign leader countless times for a seemingly innocuous achievement. I came to understand that he was building a relationship that would be very useful to him when he needed to ask this leader to do something difficult, "Bush Condoleezza Rice wrote. in the affairs of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. "Even I have often received a thank you letter from the president for the job well done, and this kindness and courtesy have been a joy for me to work with him."

In a pragmatic spirit, Bush wrote to his personal secretary, Patty Presock, shortly after taking office on his instructions regarding the burial. He asked for the anthem "Last Measure of Devotion" sung by "a good male soloist" and a single stone in Arlington, with his Navy number on it and the words: "He loved Barbara very much."

Among the many thanks that Bush has written during his last days in the presidency, one of them, former President Richard Nixon, is noteworthy: "I want to thank you for your kind words … I want to finish the course without rancor, without blaming others. "He concluded the note by writing that, when he was considering how to lead a private life, the example of Nixon" would serve as a fine example of how to do it ".

With such affinity for elegant and creative self-expression, is it any wonder that Bush was also the most frequent presidential audience member at the Kennedy Center? According to Tiki Davies, who spent three decades in the Kennedy Center press office, Bush came to see shows more often than any other president she knew, and his wife was at the rendezvous of the morning today. disappeared, which goes back to his vice-presidency.

The arts and entertainment feature in his letters: Bush exchanged poems in the mail with a cousin. He wrote to Goldie Hawn after sitting next to her at a dinner, thanking her for not having forgotten the Soviet leader Gorbachev. He wrote to actor Chevy Chase thanking him for his binder that Chase and his fellow actor and friend, Dan Akroyd, had sent him. Chase responded, and Bush wrote to him again:

"I hate problems that divide, and hope you and I can always see the other guy's point of view." He concluded with more warmth toward "the Chevy Chase from which he dropped the name (even though he's a damned Democrat!). Sincerely, George Bush."

Bush also kept a diary, dictated in a tape recorder.

The night he lost his bid for reelection, Bush made an entry in his diary to get out of the pain of defeat. He has drawn up a list of tasks and goals on how to behave in the coming days. Among them: "Comfort those whom I have hurt and let down."

"Be strong, be good, be generous in spirit, be understanding," Bush continued, "and tell people how grateful you are."


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