“Have you been out to the beach today?” the voice asked in the crowded hotel lobby.
“No, I haven’t,” I responded as I turned to see the man asking the question. To my surprise, he extended his hand, and with a big smile said, “I’m George.”
“Mr. President!” I answered. “My name is Gary ... Gary Moore ... It’s an honor to meet you, sir!” I glanced out the door to the beach. “We can go out and see the sunset on the beach now, if you have a moment!” I’m sure I responded with too much enthusiasm.
The former President turned to the man standing next to him. “Do we have time?”
“No, sir. The car is waiting, and we need to leave for the airport,” the young man heading his security detail answered.
“I’ll have to take a rain check. It was a pleasure meeting you Gary.” With that, the 41st President of the United States turned to walk out the door.
I was in Maui, attending a conference of the Direct Selling Association. It was 1999 and the former President had addressed us earlier in the afternoon. I had no idea I’d be able to meet him, but as David Letterman used to call it, it was my “Brush with Greatness.”
I mourned last week with much of the world at the passing of George H.W. Bush. I have always been a fan and admirer. I later met his sons, George W. and Jeb, as well as his wife, Barbara. I found them all to be kind souls and passionate patriots. There was an elegance to both his time as vice president and president. Politics aside, the Bush family is a wonderful group of people.
We should all learn a few lessons from George and Barbara. Their conduct after leaving the office and the way they raised their family should be an example for us all.
I know a few people who are reading this are now angry. I can already anticipate the email: “How can you say nice things about anyone named Bush?” and that is my point. We must mature our political discourse. I have never heard either Bush president openly criticize the presidents that followed them, or for that matter, anyone else. They always conducted their public life with kindness towards others and with great dignity.
At the risk of sounding naive, I’ll ask why we can’t respect the position and office of the president, even if we didn’t vote for him/her? I’ve voted in 11 presidential elections. My candidate has won six times and lost five. I didn’t threaten to move to Canada because my candidate lost. Who would care anyway? I respect the office and I also respect the intelligence of the voters and will of the American people. Regardless of election outcomes, we must get behind and support the winner. In his book, “Democracy in America,” Alexis De Tocqueville said, “If people are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve.”
George H.W. Bush was a good and decent man using any measuring standard. He is being lauded as such now after his death. The truth is, he was a good and decent man while he was president, but his press coverage and his treatment by those who disagreed was much different — and that is a shame. I think Tocqueville was clearly saying that for democracy to survive, we must learn to peacefully and respectfully coexist with those who are different and disagree with us. We must learn to criticize the policy or action while not criticizing the person — and that obviously applies to all sides of political discourse and human behavior.
We are a beautifully diverse nation … but we are quickly becoming intolerant of diversity of thought. A philosophy that says, “either you agree with me or you are a bad person” is a policy set to fail.
We don’t have to participate in this high level of disrespect for those whom think differently. Every movement starts with a person. We can work hard for our candidate, get out and vote — but then accept the will of the voters and support our elected officials. Why can’t it start with us?
I think about the photo shown on the news of President Bush’s service dog lying next to his flag-draped casket. You can’t fool a dog. A dog knows your heart. The dog was mourning with our nation.
We are blessed to be living in this great country. Let’s take our 41st president's words to heart and become “a kinder, gentler nation.”
Gary W. Moore is a syndicated columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com