WASHINGTON — Former President George H.W. Bush is returning to Washington as a revered political statesman, hailed by leaders across the political spectrum and around the world as a man not only of greatness but also of uncommon decency and kindness.
Bush, who died late Friday at his Houston home at age 94, is to be honored with a state funeral in the nation's capital on Wednesday. Following an arrival ceremony Monday, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a public viewing until Wednesday morning.
President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.
Trump ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days to honor a man of "sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership." The president and the first lady added that Bush had "inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service."
Bush will be laid to rest Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.
The school announced Saturday that Bush will be buried at the family plot next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died in 1953. Texas A&M University President Michael Young said no classes will be held on the day of Bush's burial.
Bush didn't attend Texas A&M but in 1991 chose the campus as the library's site. The campus is located about 90 miles northwest of Houston, where Bush lived.
Bush's crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
"We didn't agree much on domestic policy, but when it came to the international side of things, he was a very wise and thoughtful man," former Massachusetts Gov Michael Dukakis, a Democrat who lost the presidency to Bush in 1988, told The Associated Press on Saturday. He credited Bush's ability to negotiate with former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev as playing a key role.
"It was a time of great change, demanding great responsibility from everyone," Gorbachev told the Interfrax news agency. "The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race."
During that time and after, Gorbachev said, he always appreciated the kindness Bush and his family showed him.
In Washington, the former Republican president won praise from leaders of both parties.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan lauded him for leading the nation with "decency and integrity," while Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was a "privilege to work with him."
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Bush "befriended political foes, reminding Americans that there is always more that unites us than divides us."
At the G-20 summit in Argentina, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in then-divided East Germany, told reporters she likely would never have become her country's leader had Bush not pressed for the nation's reunification in 1990.
A humble hero of World War II, Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run over Japan. He had enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday.
Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, a union that lasted until her death earlier this year.
After military service, Bush enrolled in Yale University, where he would become a scholar-athlete, captaining the baseball team to two College World Series before graduating Phi Beta Kappa after just 2 ½ years.
After moving to Texas to work in the oil business, Bush turned his attention to politics in the 1960s, being elected to his first of two terms in Congress in 1967. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president.
Soon after he reached the zenith of his political popularity following the liberation of Kuwait, the U.S. economy began to sour, however, and voters began to believe that Bush, never a great orator, was out of touch with ordinary people.
He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?" he joked in 2005.
Clinton said he would be "forever grateful" for that friendship.
President George Herbert Walker Bush's service to the United States of America is unmatched, and his decades worth of contributions to his country are too numerous to count.
The 41st president was the first American leader I remember as a child. I was 3 when he ascended to the White House, and my mom has told the stories over the years of me butchering the pronunciation of "president" whenever I would recognize Bush on television. In a way, I have "41" to thank for my early interest in history and politics.
As I grew older, my admiration for Bush remained. Like my grandfather, he was a World War II veteran. He had a long and distinguished career in public service. He was an ambassador, a congressman, CIA director, vice president for eight years under President Ronald Reagan and president for a term.
What I remember most, though, is his dignity. One of the stories mentioned often since his passing Friday is about the note he left for incoming President Bill Clinton in 1993. Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 presidential election.
"Your success now is our country's success," Bush wrote. "I am rooting hard for you."
As a political reporter, Bush's letter is a powerful reminder of what seems to be another time. Too often in our current political climate members of opposing parties treat "the other side" as the enemy. Bush's note wasn't a message to a political foe. It was a letter of encouragement and support to a fellow American.
And that's what George H.W. Bush was all about. He put love of country and family above all else. He was devoted to his wife, Barbara, who predeceased him, and their children. When duty called, he rose to the occasion. He was a statesman.
In his inaugural address, Bush said that the United States "is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle."
He continued, "We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world."
Those words ring true today. A kinder nation. A gentler world. That's what we should strive for in 2019, the 30th anniversary of that inaugural address.
Let George Herbert Walker Bush's legacy be our guide. May he rest in peace.
Residents in two Cayuga County school districts will decide on school project proposals this week, with neither expected to increase taxes.
The first vote, on Tuesday, involves the Cato-Meridian Central School District's energy performance contract for $2.4 million in upgrades to various systems in the district. The proposal asks whether district residents want the state to pay an additional 10 percent in aid toward the cost of the improvements. That extra 10 percent, or $240,000, can be used as an incentive through the state if voters approve it, with the state being obligated to honor that vote. The school district does not need a vote for the upgrades themselves to go forward.
The project includes improvements to insulation and lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the district's elementary school, middle school and high school. The improvements are estimated to save about $144,000 annually for the district, with the savings monitored by the state Education Department. The initiative, which is not expected to increase local taxes, is meant to help the district run school buildings more efficiently while reducing the facilities' collective carbon footprint, according to a press release.
District Superintendent Terry Ward said the district will bond for the local share of the cost, but the whole bond will be paid through savings in energy costs over the next 15 years. State aid is set to cover 78 percent of the cost, but that would come to 88 percent if the community votes for that extra 10 percent. The Syracuse office of the John W. Danforth Co. will handle the upgrades.
A $6.5 million capital improvement project that the community approved last year is separate from the improvements that would fall under the energy contract. Ward said certain improvements that were originally in the capital project will now be covered by the energy contract, freeing up $642,000 to be directed to security and safety upgrades in the buildings under the capital project. Electronic classroom doors, window film and electronic interior doors to hallways would be included in the capital project.
Ward said the community has been supportive of the energy contract project. He believes the energy project making funds available for security upgrades in the capital project is one of the biggest reasons why people have been supportive.
"There should be no reason we would not want the extra $240,000 in state aid on this project," Ward said via email.
Another local district's vote, on Wednesday, is for the first phase of a proposed 15-year, three-phase capital project in the Moravia Central School District. The first phase is set to cost $11.5 million, with $10 million in building improvements and a $1.5 million energy performance contract.
If the first phase is approved, bidding with contractors would start in fall 2019 with an eye to start construction by spring or summer 2020 in the hopes of finishing the phase by late 2020 or early 2021.
The first phase would encompass updating all district lighting to LED; replacing interior and exterior doors; upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; asbestos abatement in different spots and replacing some corridor lockers, ceilings and the middle school gymnasium, according to the district's website page explaining the capital project. Safety would be also a primary element of the project, with secured entrances making outside visitors unable to reach student areas without running into additional security.
A $1.5 million energy performance contract would run simultaneously with the first phase of the project to ensure the project's elements are cost efficient and energy effective. The energy contract is set to include lighting controls with dimming capabilities, automated electronic controls and improved insulation and sealing.
The project is set to have no tax impact. The district has said it would cover the costs of the project with a combination of state aid and reserves.
The project up for a vote this week is the first of three phases in a plan to complete $35 million in work on district facilities. District officials have previously said there's a $10 million to $11 million estimate for phase two and $15 million for phase three.