In 2012, as Chair of the National Lieutenant Governs Association (NLGA) I led a bipartisan delegation to Germany that included Lieutenant Governors: Kim Reynolds from Iowa, John Sanchez from New Mexico, Elizabeth Roberts from Rhode Island, and Greg Francis from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The trip was sponsored by the Frederic Neumann Foundation, which works to strengthen transatlantic relationships between the United States and Germany. Germany is the United States sixth largest trading partner. The Foundation regularly brings together business and government leaders from the two countries in an effort to build relationships and seek out mutually beneficial policies and opportunities.
In Central Massachusetts there are several Germany companies with significant manufacturing operations in the region. Additionally, several area manufacturers also have operations in Germany as well.
This past weekend, I attended a Naumann Foundation Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. On Sunday, before our panel discussion, our host Claus Gramckow started our session with a tribute to U.S. President George H.W. Bush, acknowledging the critical role he played in facilitating the historic reunification of Germany in 1989 – 1990, which began when the Berlin Wall came down. This was no small accomplishment as President Bush had to convince a weary British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and French President, François Mitterrand, that a united democratic Germany was the right thing to do notwithstanding two costly World Wars between these nations. Moreover, President Bush was able to work with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, to free East Germany from the Soviet Union’s grip. Several years ago, my father, forever the history teacher, gave me a copy of Jon Meacham’s biography of the 41st President, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. The book provides an outstanding account that validates how pivotal a role President Bush played in uniting Germany after the Berlin Wall fell.
The other item in Meacham’s book that brought back a personal memory involved baseball. President Bush attended Yale, following his service as a navy pilot in World War II, and played for the Yale baseball team, where he was the captain. Meacham’s book tells the story how his young wife Barbara Bush would attend many of these games.
Sometime in 1993 – 1994, my friend Tom Gibbons secured two tickets to a Red Sox game behind the visitors’ dugout. The Red Sox were playing the Texas Rangers. Shortly after the game started several large Boston Police Department motorcycle officers, followed by several plain clothed officers appeared around our seats. Moments later President Bush and Barbara Bush walked out to the Rangers dugout to take their seats several rows in front of us. It appeared that Barbara Bush was keeping a box score of the game. At one point between innings, President Bush was informed that his presence would be announced over the Fenway Park public address system. He replied, looking at his wife, “They will probably boo me.” Moments later, when President Bush was welcomed to Fenway, he received a very warm reception by the crowd and commented, “Well that was a pleasant surprise,” glancing at his wife with a smile.
Political differences aside, there were many things to admire about President Bush’s service to the United States. His 70 years of public service began with his service as an 18-year-old Navy pilot who experienced combat during World War II and ended as President. Hopefully, as President Bush is remembered and laid to rest, perhaps we can contemplate ways and take actions that serve our country and communities in a fashion that make us the “kinder, gentler nation” he aspired for us.