“Be strong, be kind, be generous of spirit, be understanding and let people know how grateful you are. Don’t get even. Comfort the ones I’ve hurt and let down. Say your prayers and ask for God’s understanding and strength. Finish with a smile and some gusto and do what’s right and finish strong.”

Those are words written by President George H.W. Bush in his diary following his defeat in 1992 to President Clinton.

Even in defeat, this grand statesman remained a true gentlemen, exemplifying all that can be good in a person. These words along with his motto of “Duty, Honor, Service, God and Country” can teach all of us important lessons regarding personal character.

From this single paragraph penned by Bush 41, we can glean the following guiding principles of conduct offered through lessons:

Lesson 1 – Be generous. I imagine President Bush learned this lesson at an early age when he decided to forego his destiny by enlisting in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class on his 18th birthday in June 12, 1942. He later received his commission in June 1943 and served as the youngest pilot in the Navy at that time. He understood the significance and importance of service and sacrifice to one’s country following the events of Dec. 7, 1941, that hurled America into WW II. He was demonstratively generous with his life when he answered his nation’s call to service at that important time in history.

Lesson 2 – Be strong, committed and dedicated and remain strong in the face of adversity. Exemplify strength in the face of fear, darkness and overwhelming odds. I presume young Lt. Bush learned this lesson when his airplane was shot down while he was conducting bombing raids off of the coast of Japan on Sept. 2, 1944.  In the face of perhaps impending death, he completed his bombing run on a Japanese installation while his plane was on fire after being hit. He successfully flew out to sea and was rescued by U.S. Navy submarine USS Finback.

Lesson 3 – Be kind. He tirelessly wrote thank you letters to people all over the country. He stayed in the White House on Christmas Day rather than traveling so his Secret Service detail could enjoy the holiday with their families. He often took his staff and complete strangers to his favorite restaurants in northern Virginia.

Lesson 4 – Don’t get even. This certainly applied to his defeat by President Clinton when he came out and supported him following the election of 1992. Later in life they would join forces in several personal endeavors to help those in need throughout the country and world.

Lesson 5 – Comfort others. His family, consisting of the late First Lady, Barbara Bush, his six children and 17 grandchildren, was incredibly important to him.

Lesson 6 – Do what’s right. Following the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Bush responded with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. His actions were just. American leadership was needed to repel that aggression. But even in the face of this 40-day operation, he understood the greater geopolitical issues and restrained from invading Iraq and potentially unleashing greater instability in the region at the time. He did what was right with the appropriate amount of force and restraint.

Lesson 7 – Finish strong. His famous parachute jump celebrating his 80th birthday is certainly a lesson in how to finish strong.

What an incredible man George Herbert Walker Bush was. Indeed, his long list of personal and professional accomplishments will be studied by those seeking examples of how to live one’s life based on simple, uncompromising and positive character traits that, when applied, can provide the groundwork for success.   

Viper One Six – Out.
Visit Dave Shearman’s website, www.viperonesix.com, or contact him at viperonesix@gmail.com or 913-547-1567.