This week has been dedicated to the service and remembrance of President George H.W. Bush. And rightfully so, he was a great leader and great man.
I was in grade school when President Bush (#41) was in the White House so my memory of him is faint. But when I think of President Bush I think of my grandpa, a fellow WWII veteran and passionate Republican, who discussed politics with my father frequently.
That passion for politics was passed on to me and I now get a front-row seat to Congress and the functions of D.C. – all from the comforts of my family farm.
But my thoughts while listening to President Bush’s funeral ceremony Wednesday were not on politics, but instead on the great service and impact President Bush and those of his generation had on our country and, more importantly, whether my generation and those that follow can match their heroism, strength and wisdom. As a millennial, I fear that we are failing to match the characteristics that made those generations before us great and parenting another generation even farther removed from those values and beliefs.
In his eulogy for his father, President George W. Bush included the following remarks:
“In his inaugural address, the 41st president of the United States said this, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.
“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us, or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment, there, to trade a word of friendship.”
This passage hit home for me and embodied what I believe is our greatest challenge as parents raising children in a new, different and often complex world.
I work so my sons can have new shoes, hot meals and John Deere tractor toys. I want them to enjoy their childhood and say they lived full and interesting lives. But as we inch closer to Christmas, the urge to buy them “stuff” often overshadows the push to have them volunteer and do good. We’ve been taught that we “deserve” everything and that shouldn’t have to do what is hard or uncomfortable.
Granted my boys are young, currently 5 and 2 years old, but I hope that my early and often attention to volunteering, service, sacrifice and helping others will pay off. I want my boys to understand the love of Christ, the power of prayer, the feeling of empathy for those that have endured hardship and struggle and the willingness to give of their time and talents to help others. I need them to understand that their lives are filled with blessing but they can and should do what is hard and uncomfortable.
Some days I question if all of that can rise above the commercialism, me-first, this-is-too-much culture we’ve created. I like to think that growing up on a farm, with family close at hand, weekly church sermons and a little tough love, will allow my boys to grasp what this life is really all about.
My father tells the story of my grandfather reminding him that going to college at age 18 (the idea of which seemed overwhelming to my father) is nothing compared to boarding a ship and heading east into war – unsure if you will ever see your family again, a theme often referenced in President Bush’s services. My grandfather and those that served this country were giving their lives at the same age those of today’s generation are considering a gap year because they just can’t muster the mental endurance to tackle college after 13 years in school.
My grandpa served his country, worked to provide for his family and give his children every opportunity to better themselves. My father did the same and as I listened to the remarks of those speaking during President Bush’s funeral I realized that my single biggest challenge – and opportunity – is to raise the next generation to be as great as those my sons barely knew but owe everything too. They were the Greatest Generation and I work everyday in hopes that I raise two young men who follow President Bush’s advice and become become loyal friends, respectable neighbors and concerned citizens who take time to care and contribute. Men President George H.W. Bush would be proud of.