As the nation mourns the loss of 41st President George H.W. Bush, a letter he once wrote to his successor, former President Bill Clinton, is going viral and shines a light on his true character.
Former President Bush — the youngest aviator in U.S. Navy during World War II, 41st president of the United States, and father to the 43rd president — died shortly after 10 p.m. on Friday peacefully at his home in Houston.
Decades earlier, addressed as Jan. 20, 1993 — the date of Clinton’s inauguration — Bush handwrote a letter to his successor as Clinton was preparing to take office. It wasn’t just any note though, as the letter shows Bush was a leading example of respect.
“When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago,” Bush began his letter. “I know you will feel that, too.”
“I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some presidents have described.”
The former president explained that there would be difficult times in the White House, but encouraged Clinton not to allow criticism to discourage him in his presidency:
“There will be very times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course. You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.”
“Your success is now our country’s success,” Bush wrote, adding that he was “rooting hard” for his successor.
Traditionally, American Presidents leave a letter for their successors in the Oval Office.
George HW Bush's one for Bill Clinton is regarded as one of the finest examples and a true sign of dignity and respect. pic.twitter.com/MzlGtwicTy
— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) December 1, 2018
Paying tribute to the man who ran the White House before him, Clinton wrote on Saturday that he was thankful for Bush’s “great long life of service, love and friendship,” adding that the two’s friendship is “one of my life’s greatest gifts” after news of his predecessor’s passing.
Read part of Clinton’s tribute to Bush:
“Few Americans have been — or will ever be — able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it; from his military service in World War II, to his work in Congress, the United Nations, China, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Vice Presidency and the Presidency, where he worked to move the post Cold War world toward greater unity, peace, and freedom. … I am profoundly grateful for every minute I spent with President Bush and will always hold our friendship as one of my life’s greatest gifts.”
Clinton also shared his thoughts on the iconic letter in the Washington Post on Saturday morning:
“No words of mine or others can better reveal the heart of who he was than those he wrote himself. He was an honorable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future. And he believed in his duty to defend and strengthen them, in victory and defeat.”
President Donald Trump also paid tribute after the news of Bush’s death as he reflected on Bush’s “commitment to faith, family, and country.” The White House announced December 5 will be designated as a National Day of Mourning.