Reflections on George H.W. Bush, Pearl Harbor, and the Courage It Takes to Achieve Unity
by Jeanne Williams
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I quietly excused myself from the hustle and bustle of our corporate office. Not only is it the holiday season in our business, but we also just moved into our new building, having gracefully outgrown our former location. Out of somber respect, I grabbed a sandwich from the local deli and sat down to survey the live broadcast of our 41st president’s memorial.
There’s a type of respect one veteran has for another. When two veterans shake hands, there’s a certain, brief sobering moment when knowledge begets instant connection. You’ve carried the heavy load. You’ve seen things you can’t un-see. You’ve watched God keep you yards away from the end. You’ve lost loved ones, and then lost some more. Casting my eyes on the memorial of man who wasted nothing in 94 years struck me the same way.
George H. W. Bush wasn’t just a president – he was so much more. He was a family man, a fighter pilot, a diplomat, and the last president of the World War II generation. He was 18 when he set off on his military journey. He survived a merciful plane crash and bailed out of another, with the added challenge of having to wait for rescue at sea by friendly forces. Once he made it back to his squadron, he set his face like flint to finish out the war.
He was a bona fide WWII hero. He was a leader, a servant. He was a role model for Americans. When he was president, many people from both political parties agreed with some of the things he said and did, and those living were present during his funeral. He was “guided by certain traditions… that there’s a God, and He is good and His love, while free, has a self-imposed cost” which is our love for our fellow man, as Bush explained in a pre-presidential interview with Tony Perkins.
December 7th, 1941 was a day where horrific, unsettling events cut a cord of silence and catapulted America into a battle that had raged on for three years prior. The challenges of FDR’s health, the public’s opposition following the turmoil of World War 1, and a military in rebuild kept the US technically neutral prior to the surprise, massive attack on Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day isn’t just a light-hearted moment for misty-eyed memories, it’s a stark reminder of the people that perished as a result of a vicious attack. That attack was what finally pulled us into a gruesome war and was ultimately a turning point for America. 77 years later, we are on the brink of civil breakdown because of our inability to find unity in the current political culture:
“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” Trump said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.” President Donald Trump, 2018
It’s time to stop and think – Why is it that tragedy unifies us? World wars, 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings, school shootings, and other horrific and unprecedented events tear down our presumptions and shatter our opinions temporarily so that we can band together. In times where a fight is necessary, it is unity that drives us to victory:
“Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.” George W. Bush on September 11, 2001
Perhaps it’s our courage that humbles us, and our ego that makes us cowards. So, I challenge you with this, Patriot. What if we start to look for opportunities that unify us instead of waiting for terrible triggers to trick us into coming together?
What if we listen first, and respond to what we have heard?
What if we look past the words that are spoken, and find the hidden meaning or the hidden hurt behind what we deem a personal attack?
What if we look for ways to serve rather than for ways others can serve us?
And lastly, what if we find a way to unify without the need for a major event so that we can say we were strong without it?
77 years ago, the largest attack on U.S. soil ripped through our hearts and gave us no choice but to retaliate. Let’s use this day to remember the fallen, honor the heroes, and consider the cost of the presumptions that divide us.
CEO, Patriot Mobile