Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush mentored countless leaders during his 94 years of life, even his fiercest rivals.
During the late president's funeral in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, George W. Bush noted that his father was a mentor to "perhaps the unlikeliest of all, the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton." Other eulogies similarly referenced the 41st U.S. president's penchant for helping others, regardless of whether they were friends, strangers, or political adversaries.
"A master of what Franklin Roosevelt called 'the science of human relationships,' he believed that to whom much was given, much is expected," said presidential biographer Jon Meacham. "His life code, as he said, was: Tell the truth, don't blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course."
Here are three ways in which Bush was a master of human relationships, as cited during his funeral.
1. Finding the joke
Bush was known for his hearty sense of humor, which he maintained through his 90s, and how he could use it at times to defuse awkward or embarrassing situations. While shaking hands on the primary campaign trail in New Hampshire before winning the nomination, Bush mistakenly shook the hand of a department store mannequin. "When he realized his mistake, he said, 'Never know. Gotta ask,'" Meacham said.
2. Putting others first
One of the reasons Bush is considered to have lost his bid for reelection had to do with his decision to approve legislation raising U.S. taxes after famously uttering the phrase "Read my lips. No new taxes." Accepting what he once called "a hell of a lot of heat" by going back on his word, Bush did what he felt was best for the U.S. despite knowing it would be potentially disastrous for his own career. "When the really tough choices come, it's the country--not me," former Senator Alan Simpson quoted Bush as saying. "It's not about Democrats or Republicans. It's for our country that I fought."
3. Disavowing hatred
For someone who endured seemingly endless criticism from political opponents and members of the media, Bush avoided cynicism at all costs. "He never hated anyone," Simpson said. "He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: Hatred corrodes the container it's carried in."
In concluding his remarks Wednesday, George W. Bush noted that his father put relationships above success even in his inaugural address as president.
"We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account," George H.W. Bush said at the time. "We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?"