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George H.W. Bush's true legacy in service

Daily Point of Light Award established for individuals making a difference

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – President George Herbert Walker Bush had a political career spanning decades, but it was his dedication to service that lasted a lifetime.

It was a legacy that started with his parents, who taught the former president the value of selfless service.

"If he ever told his mother that he had done something well in school, she would say, 'Don't brag, George. Don't brag,'" former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said. "So it was instilled in him to never talk about his own accomplishments, and he didn't."

Before politics, Bush was a successful businessman, who left a legacy in the oil industry.

But the time came when the family business of politics called, and he jumped in, changing the landscape of Texas politics forever.

"It was very bold for him to become a Republican," Hutchison said. "If he was ever intending to go into politics, most people would have gone the way the majority was at the time, which was very Democratic." 

Despite some defeats early on, his political career eventually peaked at the White House, where he left his mark on the country and the world.

"I think that the one thing that will be said about him is that he was the last of the one type of president that is the moderate compromiser," said Nancy Beck Young, a professor and chair at the University of Houston's Department of History. "You find some of that in Bill Clinton's administration, but it's only after his presidency reaches some crisis points in his second term."

Another notable part of his legacy is Desert Storm, in which he used a historic level of diplomacy, organizing a large coalition in the Gulf War after Iraq and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

"He was a very adept coalition builder, but true multinationalism in getting allies together to really reinforce American foreign policy interests," said Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. diplomat and U.S. ambassador. "Desert Storm was a case in point."

While in office, Bush continued his dedication to public service, establishing the Daily Point of Light Award for individuals making a difference.

In response to the president's call to action, the Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990 to encourage and empower the spirit of service.

"I think he wants his legacy to be that public service is a noble calling and that every American should do some type of service," said Warren Finch, director at the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum.

Despite his long list of successes, many will remember the president for something just as, if not more, important: his kind heart.

"He was just a joy to work for. He was full of hope. He was full of optimism," James Baker, Bush's former Secretary of State and chief of staff, said. "That wonderful smile of his was worth more than a thousand words, and one reason he accomplished so much was because he made people feel good."


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