George H.W. Bush was the only U.S. president with whom I have had any kind of continuing contact. When I was the deputy assistant secretary of state for South America, I regularly accompanied newly arrived ambassadors to present their credentials in the Oval Office. President Bush was invariably friendly, knowledgeable and open. He clearly wanted to make this protocol occasion a happy, memorable one. I felt how my Latin colleagues must have been mightily impressed by this extraordinary welcome to our country.
Later, I had just arrived in Caracas when President Bush came to Venezuela on a state visit. He stayed at our residence and I was at his side the entire time. His graciousness, his willingness to include me in all manner of conversations with his national security advisor, his interest in my own personal history all reflected the soul of a very special gentleman. I recall an anecdotal moment: our residence staff – cooks, waiters, maids – were looking on as President Bush was conducting some business. He noticed and asked if he could take a photo with them. They said “si” and he did. I still treasure the result.
No matter the occasion, he was always gracious and well down to the earth; for me it was almost like being part of the Bush family. I, and much of the planet, will miss him.
The writer is a retired officer of the U.S. Foreign Service and ambassador to Venezuela from 1990-93.