You’ll read lots of stories about George H. W. Bush this week. The obituaries have been written over many years and require only light touch ups to be ready for prime time. The tributes are generally more current and “le jeu classique” of that genre is to contrast some aspect of the deceased to the present. Then there are the “as George and I were saying…” pieces that call more attention to the writer than to the late President.

If you have ever tried to remember whom you voted for in long-ago elections, it becomes pretty clear that your mind plays tricks on you and skews your recollection toward what you now hope you did back then. At least that’s what mine does.

I am pretty sure George Bush 41 was my first Republican vote in a four Democrats, five Republicans, three independents and one “don’t remember” string of 13 elections since 1968. He was one of my only four winners.

Never a zealot other than for solving problems and checking things off lists, I mostly liked his approach. No surprise, I share the preppy, New England, WASP thing, and he was that.

Andover and Yale, to say nothing of what must have been some pretty interesting childhood dinner conversations prepared him for an era that happened and he flourished in it.

My St. Paul’s and Harvard experience plus a whole bunch of really interesting dinner conversations prepared me for an era that didn’t happen.

Under President Kingman Brewster and Admissions Director R. Inslee “Inky” Clark, Jr., Yale led the charge toward diminishing the number of preppy New England WASPs it admitted each year. The other colleges quickly followed. Likely this was a good thing as it opened the door to more important leadership roles for a wider variety of more talented people. The bigger the pool, the greater the available talent? Seems logical.

Unfortunately when they reduced the number who looked and sounded like Bush 41, they tossed out some useful values that guided people like him.

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” reads Luke 12:48 in the King James Version. By the time George H. W. Bush could use that idea in a State of the Union message, it had become “Our work in the world is based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required.

An era has passed, perhaps with insufficient regret.



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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • Insufficient regret perhaps. A remarkable person, a leader of our country who set a high bar few can achieve. Sorely missed.

  • I loved the ‘era that didn’t happen’ and ‘Unfortunately when they reduced the number who looked and sounded like Bush 41, they tossed out some useful values that guided people like him.’

    Will anyone else recognize your wisdom…one of your best, Haven.


  • Would that 41 had emulated Ike in retiring from one presidency into another

    A splendid successor to Bok would have spared Harvard Rudenstine , Summers, Faust and Bacow.

  • With a solid grounding in the CIA, who knows what other bits of training he may really have had coupled with his stint in China, he certainly was well prepared for his stint as president. Although, his underbelly was well carved out due to the CIA’ s little Nicaragua games out of Arkansas giving Clinton the knife to turn.
    Bush should have had 2 terms, but he couldn’t run hard against Clinton once he was the nominee knowing that Clinton could make sure all George’s little secrets would come out. You can hear Bill “Well sure you all can run those illegal CIA planes out of Arkansas, we won’t say nothing, but I will be running for President”.

  • Thanks haven. George Senior was a wise and good leader. I think his likes are appreciated right now more than ever. Decent, soft spoken and had the guts to raise taxes even in the context of his declaration he’d never do so. A good man.

  • Haven….as one of the incoming class at Fordham law school in 1971, along with you and Mike DiGiacomo, we were all veterans and served in Vietnam..

    41 was a volunteer at 18 and his concept of duty is sorely lacking today..only 1% of the population serves today and the 99% are strangely disconnected and have lost the concept that I and many others grew up with..

    I am glad that today many vets are entering Congress and I hope that they will form the basis of the next “Greatest Generation”…

    Happy holidays….Allan

  • Actually, I think prep school values may have a
    modest comeback.
    — The McCain funeral (Annapolis and generations
    of admirals counts as prep school);
    — Mueller, SPSer who will single-handedly restore the notion
    that there is such a thing as truth and honesty, that bad
    behavior not just in Washington but on Wall St in the end
    is not rewarded, that selfless public service is good …
    — Wray, who has not really been tested yet but is an
    essential backstop if something happens to
    Mueller, went to Buckley, Andover, Yale, Yale Law
    Don’t think Trump had any idea idea he was appointing
    someone so unmalleable ….
    — and of course the days of 41 commentary, and the funeral.

    I think many Americans didn’t like all the Trump antics
    but were willing to accept it to get the tax cut and a good economy,
    and maybe some Supremes. Not clear that’s a long term
    winner for good church-going folks..

    • Bob, Thank you for a comment that provides much hope going forward. As always from you, very thoughtful. Much appreciated.

  • Haven,
    In 1964 when you and I were admitted to Harvard the “dewasping” of the Ivy League fortunately had not kicked in yet or otherwise we might have had to go to our back up plan. As evidence out of my class of fifty at St. Marks School nine of us were admitted to Harvard and several others went to Yale and Princeton. Those days are now ancient history.

  • Very nice piece on Bush 41. I didn’t vote for him in 1988, largely because I was turned off by the Lee Atwater ads – perhaps one time when Bush 41 left the principles he was brought up with at the door. I didn’t vote for him in 1992, because I felt that he liked being President up to a point. He was very good at foreign policy and national security, but not so good when having to fight dirty with people like George Mitchell. As I said in my emal last night, whoever it was who said that Bush 41 was at his best when he wrote his own speeches, nailed it.