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Noblesse Oblige

By Dale Lucht

On November 30, George H.W. Bush passed away. He was 94 years old. His family had an old and storied legacy. His father was a Senator, his grandfather George Herbert Walker, was president of USGA in 1920. During Walker’s reign he started awarding the Walker Cup, which remains one of amateur golf’s most beloved events. Some of what I found in researching his Family Tree I knew, but I was surprised to find out that he was a distant cousin, three times removed, of Wild Bill Hickok. George H.W. Bush became a war hero, a Congressman, Ambassador, and the CIA Director.

I remember being in Denver while the Republican primary was going on, and I mentioned to a friend that I thought George Bush looked the most presidential to me. This was back when Bush and Reagan were battling it out for the nomination. Bush rightly referred to Reagan’s economic plan as “Voodoo Economics”. Unfortunately Reagan became President and “Trickledown Economics” became the baby of the Republican Party. Bush was the Vice President for eight years and then of course was elected to the Presidency in 1988.

I have voted for Republicans in the past, but I primarily vote Democratic. During the tributes to former President George H.W. Bush, noblesse oblige was used to describe him. Noblesse oblige (no blesś o blézh) is the idea that someone with power and influence should use their social position to help other people. This did seem to fit Bush 41. A look at his accomplishments in the 4 years is amazing to us today. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell which allowed East and West Germany to reunite. England, France and Russia did not want to see them joined, but Bush was able to get them to agree to the reunification in 1990.

Bush met with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 to discuss disarmament, announcing that the Cold War was effectively over. In 1990 they signed an Arms Reduction Agreement. Bush had a world view of the United States’ stature and responsibility to the world. Evidence of this is the Persian Gulf War of 1991.  Bush was able to gather 39 countries into a collaboration to defend Kuwait and expel Iraq. Twenty-eight nations contributed troops to oust Iraq. Bush wasn’t into nation building but into the defense of our friends and allies. Once Iraq pulled out of Kuwait and ran back to Baghdad, Bush ended the war. To me this is a case of noblesse oblige.

He didn’t do everything right; one of his mistakes was nominating Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. At least, in my opinion, this was a mistake. He was able to work with a democratic congress to pass many good laws. This happened because he had experience and relationships with members of congress. In 1990 he signed the Clean Air Act, which tightened air pollution standards and sought to reduce urban smog and cut acid rain pollution. There was a time when Republicans accepted environmental issues. In 1990 he also signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act. The year of 1990 was a big year for President Bush; he also signed the Immigration Act of 1990. This law allowed for admission of 700,000 aliens each year. How the years have changed the outlook of Americans toward aliens. Now we separate parents from their children, incarcerate them and tear gas them.

Another way of understanding what noblesse oblige is “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Luke 12:48. I am old enough to remember when there was decorum and empathy in politics. When laws were enacted to help all Americans, not just big donors. This one is from Spiderman – “With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility”. Let us all hope that we rediscover this feeling.

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