News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Dec. 03, 2018

Ash Carter

Director, Belfer Center; former Secretary of Defense

George H.W. Bush personified the Greatest Generation. Upon learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bush – not yet 18 – immediately set about enlisting. “It was a red, white, and blue thing,” he recalled. “Your country’s attacked, you’d better get in there and try to help.” He became one of America’s youngest aviators, flying 58 combat missions in the Pacific.

Later, after a successful career in the oil business, Bush served as a member of Congress, ambassador to the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President. One theme above all connects these chapters of public leadership: love of country. It’s why Bush will be remembered most not as a Republican but as one of the lions of American statesmanship.

I was fortunate to serve in the Pentagon during Bush’s vice presidency, and I got to see up close the bipartisan spirit, the deep grasp of foreign policy, and the unstinting commitment to America’s military that defined his government service.

Americans, and I believe many people around the world who admired the America he embodied, can recall with sadness but also pride not just what Bush did but how he did it – with civility, truth, and principle. These are the values the Belfer Center aspires to.



Nicholas Burns

Director, Future of Diplomacy Project, Belfer Center; former Ambassador, career Foreign Service Officer

We lost a great American and a truly gifted American President over the weekend with the death of President George H.W. Bush.  One of the great honors of my life was the opportunity to work for him as Director for Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council from 1990-93.

I wrote a tribute to him below for CNBC.  He was an extraordinary leader as President in unifying Germany, helping to end the Cold War peacefully, and in mobilizing a global coalition to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the Gulf War.  He also set a very high standard for decency, civility, integrity, and character in the Oval Office.

It is obvious from the outpouring of affection and respect for him over the weekend here in the U.S. and overseas that his legacy can inspire us all to remain dedicated to a Europe and world that, in his words, is “whole, free and at peace.”

Read CNBC full tribute here.


Once Upon a Time, U.S. Foreign Policy Worked | Foreign Policy

Remembering George H.W. Bush | CNN

George H.W. Bush's Life Has Plenty Of Lessons For Today's Politics | NPR

Eulogizing George H.W. Bush | WBUR



William Tobey

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center; former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, National Nuclear Security Administration

Any of us who worked in his White House can provide multiple stories illustrating the late U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s constancy, modesty, integrity, decency, patience, prudence, and intelligence, all tinged with a self-effacing sense of humor. A good example is an anecdote he told on himself. During the 1988 presidential campaign, his mother, Dorothy, called to say that he was doing fine, but that she wished he wouldn’t talk about himself quite so much. When he left office in 1993, his qualities reflected well upon him. Today, they are incandescent.

See tribute in Foreign Policy, here.


For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Remembering President George H.W. Bush.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, December 3, 2018.