President Bush: A Legacy of Action, Compassion, and Doing the Right Thing
Like millions of people around the world today, I find myself in a reflective mood.
The NYSE and Nasdaq are both closed in observance of President George Herbert Walker Bush’s death earlier this week.
The President – simply “Bush ’41” to many – touched my life as he touched millions across the world.
I can’t quite put my finger on why.
The man was…
… a patriot
… a leader
… an inspiration
… a calming influence
… a gentle giant
… and, of course, someone of the highest character
I particularly liked his view of history and am drawn today to something he said nearly 30 years ago on January 20, 1989, during his inauguration address.
“I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.”
Interestingly and importantly, I think the world views his life that way.
Comments pouring in from around the world speak of his warmth, charisma, wisdom, and foresight. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin chimed in, noting that President Bush “always sought balanced decisions even in the most difficult situations,” according to a posting on the Kremlin’s website.
Financially speaking, Bush played a key role in events that continue to shape our world today.
Most people have forgotten about the S&L Crisis, but it was the first big crunch for me as I began my career. Some 1,043 S&L’s failed out of a total of 3,234, from 1986 to 1995.
Yet, President Bush quietly and with little fanfare managed to save the savings and loan industry by selling off failed thrifts and requiring others to merge with stronger players. At the same time, he recapitalized those that were deemed salvageable.
His recovery playbook would serve as a dress rehearsal nearly 20 years on during the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 – 2008.
President Bush also made an abrupt about-face on taxes in June of 1990 when he told the country to embrace the seemingly unholy and unthinkable combination of spending cuts and tax increases that would go on to cut the national deficit by nearly half a trillion dollars over the next five years.
It was the right move and one that would ultimately cost him the presidency, but his package arguably set the foundation for the remarkable bull run of the 1990s.
I remember discussing that move specifically with my grandmother, Virginia “Mimi” Gruner.
You’ve heard me talk about her before – she became a very successful global investor after being widowed at a young age and turning a small life insurance settlement into everything she needed to live out her life in style.
Anyway, Mimi rightly pointed out that President Bush would ultimately be judged not by ‘what’ he did, but ‘who’ he was when he did it.
It was the President’s “character that would become his legacy,” she said.
Not his party.
Rest in peace, Mr. President.
Until next time,