What an interesting juxtaposition, the announcement of the death of George H. W. Bush (the first Bush president), which most of us will hear about today, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. Today is the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
The first president Bush didn't create World AIDS Day, but he may have been the first president to move AIDS policy to a more helpful position--but full credit should be given to his wife, Barbara. From what I've read, she was the motivating force behind a more compassionate approach to this disease.
People who weren't alive in the 80's may not realize how afraid of AIDS everyone was when the disease was first discovered, before we had much understanding of how people contracted it. People who know people with AIDS today may not remember how dreadful the disease was when it burst into our consciousness in the 80's, when healthy men turned into skeletons and died within 6 months.
Barbara Bush made history in a famous photo that showed her holding a baby with AIDS. She argued fiercely and consistently for a more humane treatment of those with AIDS. And her husband, George H. W. Bush showed wisdom in following her lead.
I predict that George H. W. Bush will be the last president to come out of a certain kind of public servant tradition. He was rich, yes. But he had an idea of service (to family, to country) that few people in politics seem to have these days. He fought during a fierce war (World War II) and then continued to serve his country by his various political jobs.
I confess that I didn't like George H. W. Bush as a president, but now I would be so thrilled to see someone like him emerge on the political stage: left, right, center, it would make no difference to me. The first Bush president now seems like an amazing example of steady leadership bolstered by a variety of intelligences. It makes me sad that we can no longer take intelligence of any kind for granted in our leadership--and even sadder that it doesn't seem to matter for so many of us.
Those of us who work towards social justice and human dignity for all know how long the struggle might be. We are similar to those medieval builders of cathedral: we may not be around to see the magnificent completion of our vision, but it's important to play our part. In the words of that old Gospel song, we keep our eyes on the prize, our hands on the plow, and hold on.