You may have caught the news that President George H.W Bush has updated the 1999 compendium All The Best, My Life in Letters and Other Writings. The new volume includes correspondence between father and son during the two terms of the George W. Bush presidency, including poignant comments regarding the war in Iraq and insight into Bush 41’s friendship with former President Clinton.
George H.W. Bush has been a life-long writer of letters. I received a personally autographed copy of the original All The Best when the then former president visited his hometown of Greenwich at a breakfast conducted by Just Books, a prominent book store at the time that has since closed. During Bush’s comments it became quickly apparent how emotionally involved he is when referencing his children and grandchildren. He readily admits and it was in evidence that he finds it difficult to read his own personal letters without tears.
I became aware of this up-dated version of All The Best while reading Richard Ben Cramer’s What it Takes, a wonderful work of non-fiction regarding the 1988 presidential election and Bush’s victory over Bob Dole and then Michael Dukakis. Cramer credits Bush’s great communications skills as a key ingredient in the Bush victory. Never in the course of that campaign was an opportunity missed to write a personal letter to thank a donor, to accompany a photograph or recognize a favor or personal introduction. That same discipline served Bush during his presidency and over a fifty year career in public life.
Letter writing is of course a lost art, replaced by e-mail and text messaging. It seems to me however that neither of the aforementioned leave the indelible impact of a hand-written letter. Letter writing is as inspiring for the author and the recipient. Each of my children, grandchildren, loved ones and personal friends have received a letter upon all of the important occasions, accomplishments and challenges in their lives. I have discovered that despite all of the e-mails, telephone calls and texts, it is these letters that remain in their possession and often rekindle the importance of love, milestones and friendships. They become a landmark in an otherwise sea of words. No surprise that All The Best strikes a chord with me!
Thoughts penned by one’s own hand are permanent fingerprints of the mind, ethos and soul. All The Best may define George H.W. Bush better than the thousands of words written about him by others.
February, 10, 1997: Former President George H.W. Bush writing to a young girl whose Dad was killed while serving in the United states Army in Panama: All The Best, pp: 597 excerpts)
Dear Britnay,” You never knew your Dad. I didn’t know him either. I had to make the call that sent him into battle.— Your father was one of the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life. I think your Dad felt he might die for he wrote a most beautiful letter to your grandmother, a letter that said among other things, ‘I am frightened by what lays beyond the fog, and yet do not mourn for me. Revel in the life that I have died to give you.’ — I shared this letter with our entire nation during my State of the Union Address on January 31, 1990. As I did I choked up because I knew your entire family was hurting.— I wish I had known your Dad personally. I think I would be a better man if I had known him, for his kind of courage lifts men up and inspires them. May God bless you in your life ahead.