A note that George H. W. Bush penned to a young naval aviator in August may well have captured the essence of the late president, Vice President Mike Pence told the nation Monday at a Capitol Hill ceremony honoring Bush.
The note was sent to Pence’s son after Michael Pence, a 1st lieutenant in the Marines, made his first tailhook landing on an aircraft carrier named after Bush.
Pence had asked Bush if he would sign a picture of the flight deck. Although Bush’s autographing days were over, the former naval aviator sent the photo along with a note.
“Though we have not met, I share the pride your father has for you during this momentous occasion,” Bush wrote. “And I wish you many CAVU days ahead.”
The acronym stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited, a phrase used by Navy pilots to describe the weather they want when flying off of an aircraft carrier.
But CAVU, Bush once told his children, could also describe his own life. And, Pence said, it may have been the vision he had for his children, his children’s children and his country.
“No barriers. No boundaries. No limits,” Pence said.
Pence spoke as the 41st president lay in a flag-draped casket inside the Capitol dome where he will lie in state until Wednesday.
Much of Pence’s 11 minutes of remarks detailed Bush’s extensive record of public service. That service began when he enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, continued through four years in the House, assignments as U.N. ambassador, the nation’s first envoy to China and head of the CIA.
And before being elected president in 1988, Bush served as Ronald Reagan’s vice president for eight years.
When Bush was preparing to be vice president, Pence noted with a prolonged pause and a smile, Bush joked about the job that there was “nothing substantive to do at all.”
“But as history records, during those years, he set the standard as a sound counselor and loyal adviser to an outsider who came to Washington, D.C. to shake things up – cut taxes, rebuild the military,” Pence said. “And together they did just that.”
Pence met Bush in 1988 when, at 29, Pence was just getting started in politics. Pence was making the first of two unsuccessful bids for Congress before his winning 2000 run.
“Then as always I was struck by his approach-ability,” Pence said. “There was a kindness about the man that was evident to anyone who ever met him.”
Pence thanked the Bush family, on behalf of President Donald Trump and the country, for “sharing this special man with our nation and the world.”
“President Bush was a great leader who made a great difference in the life of this nation,” Pence said. “But he was also just a good man.”
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