Yesterday, Vice President Pence gave an incredibly touching account of a recent exchange with President George H.W. Bush.
For context, President Bush was famous for his letter writing. He wrote thousands over his lifetime.
When VP Pence’s son, who is a Marine Aviator, made his first carrier landing earlier this year aboard the aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush, VP Pence contacted the President and asked if he would sign a photo of the aircraft carrier named after him. Already in his mid 90’s, President Bush had long ago stopped signing autographs. But shortly after his request was sent, VP Pence DID receive a response. The requested photo accompanied by a letter from the President:
“Congratulations on receiving your ‘wings of gold.’ I know how proud you and your family are at this moment.
Though we have not met, I share the pride your father has for you during this momentous occasion. And I wish you many CAVU days ahead.
All the best, G Bush.” CAVU for short, is a term Navy pilots have used since World War II. It stands for “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited”.
In President Bush’s words, CAVU was: “The kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific.”
In conversations with his children over the years, “CAVU” is how the President described his entire life. Ceiling and visibility unlimited.
Fast forward to today. After watching and listening to a week of memorials and firsthand accounts of President Bush’s relationships and encounters with people over his 70 years of public service, the one thing that is universally accepted is the fact that our 41st president was a man of class and dignity.
An example of that? Much the way John Adams and Thomas Jefferson fought viciously as politicians, yet after retirement became close friends and confidants, President Bush teamed up with President Bill Clinton to raise money for disaster relief and eventually grew to be close friends with the man who defeated him in 1992. I attribute this to the fact that there are some things that only those who have walked in your shoes can relate to.
Political winds have blown different directions at different points in our history and we can agree or disagree with the views of those who represent us, but in a world where the opposing view is demonized and those we don’t see eye to eye with are vilified, President Bush reminded us that it doesn’t have to be that way. It IS possible to hold high office and take the high road simultaneously.
To drive that point home, one of President Bush’s best friends and someone who was with him the day he passed was James Baker. Mr. Baker, who was a former member of the opposing political party, developed a decades long relationship with the President that transcended party politics, and Baker eventually served as Chief of Staff to two Presidents as Secretary of State. On the day of his passing, James was with the President, reportedly rubbing his feet. When the end was obviously near and the President saw him, he asked, “Where are we going Bake?”
His longtime friend responded, “Heaven, we are going to Heaven George.”
You defended us in war and guided us in peace in a way that few could. May you enjoy an eternity of CAVU days, Mr. President.
ERIC KAISER is the Chief of Police for the Jourdanton Police Department and a Master Texas Peace Officer. He also served as Chief of Staff to two presidents and Secretary of State. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.