'The power to do good’: Hawaii leaders remember life, service of former President George H.W. Bush
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii politicians remembered former George H.W. Bush on Friday as a devoted public servant who believed in the power of compromise — and of fighting for what you believed in.
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann worked in the Bush administration, even though he’s a Democrat.
“He is the quintessential, decent, compassionate person that we’re going to miss,” Hannemann said. “He led by example, and I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me an opportunity to work in the White House.”
Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died Friday night at the age of 94. His wife of 73 years, former first lady Barbara Bush, died in April at the age of 92.
A World War II hero, Bush also served as a congressman from Texas, an ambassador, the director of the CIA, and vice president for Ronald Reagan.
He was also the only U.S. president besides John Adams to have a son who also became president – George W. Bush, who served from 2001 to 2009.
[Also read: Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94]
After news of Bush’s death broke, leaders from around the world sent their condolences to his family and urged Americans to take a moment to mark the loss of a great leader.
“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world," the president and first lady said, in a statement.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Bush “leaves behind an American legacy of a lifetime of service that will be revered for generations.”
Hannemann, who served in the Bush White House, said he often traveled with the president and was struck by his commitment to making sure everyone felt valued.
“After every one of his trips that I accompanied him on, it was a standard practice of his to take a 3-by-5 card and write a personal note. It wasn’t just to the leaders that he met. It was everyone along the trip that helped him,” Hannemann said.
Bush also campaigned in the islands for Hawaii Republican Pat Saiki and appointed her to head the Small Business Administration.
“Certainly, as far as I’m concerned, President George H.W. Bush was one of the greatest presidents I’ve ever known and certainly he was a personal friend as well,” Saiki said.
Saiki said she most remembers Bush’s humble nature.
[PHOTO GALLERY: A look back at former President George H.W. Bush’s life and legacy]
"President Bush was down-to-earth, very straightforward, never changed his mind and he moved ahead with what was best for this country. And I admired him for that,” Saiki said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released a statement on Bush’s passing calling him “one of the most committed public servants in modern history.”
Bush “showed us all how to live a life of service with personal decency and humility,” Schatz continued.
Bush was a member of the Greatest Generation who fought in WWII.
And in Dec. 1991, he came to Hawaii to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Fifty years ago, we paid a heavy price for complacency and over-confidence,” he said, in a speech to fellow veterans, members of the military and dignitaries who had gathered to mark the occasion. He added, “In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past.” That includes, he said, remembering — and vowing never to repeat — the painful history of internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
Bush also helped inspire young Republican politicians in the islands.
State Rep. Gene Ward said Bush told him to seek power "for the sake of doing good."
“And what it told me as a young politician, that’s something to remember. Not power for the sake of power, but the power to do good,” he said.
Bush couldn’t win over voters in Hawaii, though — not in 1988 or 1992.
In both elections, Hawaii voters favored his Democratic opponents in the popular vote and he didn’t receive a single electoral vote in Hawaii.
Sam Slom, a former Republican state senator, said Bush always put his country first — even when he lost his bid for re-election in 1992.
“I think it’s going to be a long time before we have a leader that can bring people together as he did, and to show that win or lose, our country first,” he said.
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