Wednesday, December 5, 2018

(Inter)National Day of Mourning

President Trump designated December 5, 2018 as a National Day of Mourning for the loss of President George H. W. Bush. He also directed us to fly our flags at half-staff for 30 days. What does this mean at an Embassy? Well, it's technically being treated as a holiday for all federal employees (including all of us overseas) except those who "cannot be excused for reasons of national security, defense, or other essential public business."

There are some other things I learned about how such a high-level, official mourning period is observed, too, that I never knew before. For example, we (and other embassies) put out formal condolence books for foreign dignitaries to sign. We've received a number of heartfelt sympathies from around the world, including the many who knew President Bush personally or benefitted from what many characterize as his steady hand in international affairs.

I'm not here to discuss or evaluate his policies, performance, or legacy, which are extremely controversial and politically loaded topics. I think it's worth noting that even his harshest critics respected him as a statesman, public servant, and legitimate leader. I find that a level of civil discourse and mutual respect worth emulating broadly, regardless of who's in office.

Politics aside, in a world and especially in a government where it always seems so easy (and so fashionable) to be a cynic, I admire how President Bush let his exceptional optimism shine. Here are a few quotes from him I found that embody his hope and idealism (sources here and here):

  • "We are a nation of communities...a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."
  • "And I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless."
  • "No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others."
  • "I'm conservative, but I'm not a nut about it."
  • "American is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle."

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

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