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A tribute to 41 and his ‘kinder, gentler’ legacy

Less than eight months after his wife Barbara Bush passed, former President George H.W. Bush died Friday night at the age of 94. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    I, George Herbert walker bush, do solemnly swear.

  • CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST:

    that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    George Herbert Walker Bush became president in 1989. His inaugural address included the words 'kinder' and 'gentler'–words that would become part of his legacy, and that he also used in his acceptance speech at the republican convention in 1988

  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    I want a kinder and gentler nation.

    Mr. Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. The son of a wealthy family he grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and spent summers the family's oceanfront home in Kennebunkport, Maine. His father Prescott Bush was an investment banker who also served as the republican U.S. Senator from Connecticut for 10 years.

    After graduating from boarding school, Mr. Bush enlisted in the navy and became one of the youngest aviators in naval history at age 18. He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down in the pacific in 1944 but rarely talked about his military career. Returning home, he married Barbara pierce who he first met as a teenager at a Christmas dance.

    Following in his father's footsteps, he attended Yale University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in just 2.5 years. But instead of continuing to follow his father to Wall Street in 1948, Bush and his family headed for Texas. There, he eventually formed an oil exploration company and quickly made his first millions.

    From there, George H.W. Bush embarked upon a political career spanning over thirty years.

    From a two-term Texas congressman, to UN ambassador under Richard Nixon under President Gerald Ford he became liaison to China and then director of the CIA. His quest for the presidency led to his serving eight years as vice president under Ronald Reagan and, finally, to the highest office in the land in 1989.

    But before winning the presidency, Mr. Bush made a promise he would later come to regret.

  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    My opponent won't rule out raising taxes but I will and the congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say 'no.' And they'll push, and I'll say 'no.' and they'll push again and I'll say to them, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.'

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In office, President Bush sent troops to the Persian Gulf War in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    Seven months ago, America and the world drew a line in the sand. We declared that the aggression against Kuwait would not stand, and tonight, America and the world have kept their word.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    He is credited with bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and signed the American with Disabilities and Clean Air acts into law.

    But in 1992, when he ran for re-election, the economy was failing and the new budget bill forced a compromise which included a tax increase. Democrats seized on the broken promise and it helped Bill Clinton become president.

    In the years after his presidency, George H.W. Bush continued his life of public service.

    He toured Asia with his former political rival, Bill Clinton, to raise funds for victims of the 2004 tsunami there. In 2006, he did the same for victims of Hurricane Katrina. And he lived an active and athletic life, celebrating his 80th and 90th birthdays by skydiving. He offered this advice for his fellow senior citizens:

  • GEORGE H. W. BUSH:

    Get out and do something. If you don't want to do a parachute jump, do something else, don't just sit around watching TV, talking to it. Get out there and realize at 80 years old, you've still got a life.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    President Trump took to twitter today, writing, "President George H. W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life. Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family."

    Other former presidents expressed their condolences today. President Obama wrote, "George H. W. Bush's life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey."

    President Clinton said, "Few Americans have been—or will ever be—able to match president bush's record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it."

    President Jimmy Carter wrote that President Bush "espoused a uniquely American volunteer spirit, fostering bipartisan support for citizen service and inspiring millions to embrace community volunteerism as a cherished responsibility."

    And in a statement, his son, George W. Bush, who was the 43rd president, said, "George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for."

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