Illinois leaders pay tribute to former president Bush

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Former President George H.W. Bush stands between Monmouth College President Richard Giese (left) and George Arnold, the dean of faculty, on the commencement platform at Monmouth College on May 14, 2000. (Read Media photo)

“Be bold in your caring, bold in your dreaming and, above all else, always do your best for yourself, for your family and, yes, for your country.”

  • George H.W. Bush at Monmouth College in 2000

George H.W. Bush stood and shook hands with all 221 graduates.

That is one of the remembrances Jeff Rankin, historian for Monmouth College, has of the former president’s visit to Monmouth College’s commencement in 2000.

“That kindness proved to be a Bush trademark for the weekend, as all who were close to him commented on his warm personality,” Rankin wrote in a post for “Bush even showed a great sense of humor, making several jokes in his speech, including one referring to the popular impersonation of him by comedian Dana Carvey.”

George H.W. Bush died late Friday, Nov. 30. The oldest living former president at 94, Bush was the nation’s 41st president. Later in life, he developed vascular Parkinsonism, a condition caused by one of more small strokes. He was often seen in a wheelchair during the last few years.

Jim Pate, Monmouth Class of 1963, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, president and CEO of Pennzoil and a neighbor of the Bushes, had invited the former president to the Class of 2000 commencement at the college.

Rankin remembers the commencement being on a bright and sunny Mother’s Day, with Bush giving an address titled, “A New Patriotism.”

In his address, the former president said, “We still have much to accomplish as a country. We’ve so much more to do, which is why we still need good and decent people to get involved — to get off the sidelines and roll up their sleeves and give something back.”

Illinois leaders have given their praise to the former president for his service to our country. Among the statements from leaders are:

Bill Brady, state Senate Republican leader, said, “As we look back at his tenure as president, we are reminded of a time where political differences were respected, and where civility and decency were the norm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bush family during this difficult time.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the former president would always be remembered for his hallmark humility, dignity and grace.

“In public life and in private conversations, the Naval officer who fought in the last World War and the president who helped end the Cold War, never allowed policy disagreements or political differences to overshadow the fact that we are all Americans working toward a better country,” Emanuel said. “When I was elected to Congress and placed on the Ways and Means Committee, President Bush called me — a rookie congressman who helped end his bid for re-election 10 years earlier — to tell me how much he thought I would enjoy the post and the work. That’s who President Bush was as a person and a patriot, and that is how he will forever be remembered.”

State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said, “We mourn the passing of an extraordinary American hero. George H.W. Bush dedicated himself to serving our nation, and the legacy he leaves behind will be forever cherished by every American.”

Sixth District Congressman-elect Sean Casten said that President Bush inspired so many to engage in public service.

“He recognized that country was more important than the party, and that the office was more important than the man,” Casten said. “From his roles in the CIA to his foreign policy leadership to his use of markets to address environmental harm through the Montreal Protocol, he continually made the country stronger and left the world a better place than he found it. He — and his example — will be missed, but not forgotten.”

U.S. financial markets will be closed Wednesday, Dec. 5 in observation of a national day of mourning as declared by the White House to honor the memory of the former president.