Remembering George H.W. Bush

THIS WEEK ON PEOPLEASIA - Babe Romualdez - The Philippine Star
Remembering George H.W. Bush
The 41st President of the US: George Herbert Walker Bush.
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

All the ambassadors to Washington were invited to the US Capitol Rotunda where the remains of the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, lay in state. I would have wanted to attend the state funeral of the late president, but I had to be in Manila for the arrival of the Balangiga bells — a journey home that took 117 years to happen.

With (from left) Tony Garcia, Ronnie Puno and Sen. Mitch McConnell during the 1989 inaugural ball of President George H. W. Bush.

In his eulogy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky recalled the inaugural address of George H.W. Bush on Jan. 20, 1989: “We meet on democracy’s front porch. A good place to talk as neighbors and as friends.” He then described the late president as “a humble servant who loved his fellow citizens…a principled leader who knew America not only guards our own future, but also safeguards democracy for the world.”

George W. Bush and wife Laura during the 1989 inaugural of President Bush Sr.

I was at the inaugural ball of President George H.W. Bush, and I spoke with Senator McConnell as well as other officials of the Bush Sr. administration like White House chief of staff John Sununu and Republican Party strategist and presidential adviser Lee Atwater.

Just like his son, the older Bush had a soft spot for Filipinos, which is not really surprising considering that as a young Navy aviator (the youngest during his time) in 1944, he flew missions supporting American combat operations in the Philippines during World War II.

With the late Lee Atwater, Republican Party strategist and adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr.

In fact, he was the one who appointed Filipino-American Dr. Connie Mariano to join the White House Medical Unit. Dr. Connie was also personally chosen by Bill Clinton to become his White House physician, giving her the distinction of being the first woman director of the White House Medical Unit, and the first Filipino-American to reach the rank of Rear Admiral in the US Navy. 

Not many also know that the personal nurse of George Bush Sr. who took care of him during his illness is a Filipina named Julie Arsenio who apparently enjoyed warm and pleasant relations with the Bush family.

Teddyboy Locsin (now Foreign Affairs Secretary), Cito Lorenzo and Ricky Razon during the 2003 state visit of President Gloria Arroyo to Washington during the presidency of George Bush Jr.

Like many people all over the world, Filipino-Americans (majority of whom voted for George W. Bush during the 2004 US presidential elections) mourn the passing of George H.W. Bush who, in the words of Vice President Mike Pence, was a man whose time as a public servant was “characterized by kindness.”

President Bush Sr. with his Filipina nurse Julie Arsenio.


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