Remembering President Bush

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Then Republican National Committee Chair George Bush speaks to graduates at the 1973 fall commencement. The 41st president died on Friday after suffering from a form of Parkinson’s Disease. Photo courtesy of Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives

Tim Eggert

Although most of the current university community may not have witnessed the presidency of the late President George H.W. Bush first-hand, his political career once intersected with NMU.

In 1973, against a national backdrop of scandal and criticism, then Republican National Committee Chair Bush spoke at fall commencement and received an honorary doctor of laws degree.
“No question about it, your idealism, you as graduates here today at Northern, your idealism has been sully,” Bush said in the commencement address. “Just let me tell you something—so is mine.”

Bush cited his experience as Ambassador to the United Nations and called on graduates to have an appreciation for the rights, like the justice system’s “fundamental presumption of innocence,” and the freedoms, such as the “unusual luxury of free speech,” guaranteed to them despite their sense of mistrust following the Watergate Scandal.

“I feel strongly that now, above all, is the time for involvement—political involvement if you will,” Bush said. “This is the time to regain our idealism; at home, so that, we can continue to inspire countries abroad.”

In his two terms as Vice President to President Reagan, Bush focused on foreign diplomacy, federal deregulation and anti-drug programs.

Foreign policy remained at the nucleus of the Bush presidency: he oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War.

In 1992, the Republican president lost re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Bush further encouraged graduates to participate in the political system “regardless of its imperfections” and claimed that although non-involvement was a privilege, they should choose
involvement.

The 41st president died on Friday after suffering from a form of Parkinson’s Disease. President Trump ordered the federal government closed on Wednesday for a national day of mourning.

Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

“Save some time to think politically, to look at our world comparatively. And, then make your judgements,” Bush said. “This is no time for the timorous and I am satisfied then that you will get involved. For, in spite of our critics, we have something worth battling for.”