How George H.W. Bush Helped Build The Wall
By Jan C. Scruggs
I have had the opportunity to meet and have conversations with some really great leaders in my lifetime. I have met Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and others. I have spent time with famous military leaders including General Colin Powell, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Generals Peter Pace, Richard Myers and Admiral Mike Mullen, all of whom are assisting with the Education Center at The Wall www.buildthecenter.org. I routinely meet and deal with a lot of famous and influential people – even the Prime Minister of Australia – who gave a donation of over 3 million dollars for the Education Center at The Wall.
Today, on Christmas, I am thinking about one of the great men I have met. He is now 88 years old. His name is George Herbert Walker Bush. I am writing this to let everyone know that he is one of the most decent and wonderful people I have ever met. I pray that he gets out of the hospital and recovers.
Back in 1982 he was Vice President of the United States. Plans for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were in deep trouble; the design by Maya Lin was criticized by a group that would stop at nothing to end the endeavor. Their leader was a Texas billionaire who invested a lot of time, money and talent to bring the effort to an end. We had to fight back. One person stood up to the opponents even as he was threatened with dismissal; a fellow named Chuck Hagel.
During this nightmare, something caught my attention. Vice President Bush was a graduate of Yale University; Maya Lin was also attending Yale. I began contact with Vice President Bush.
In January 1982 Interior Secretary James Watt went to war with the Memorial effort. He withdrew our groundbreaking permit. We had the money and the federal approvals to get construction underway, but he would not allow it. An article nationwide stated that a person with ” ties to the American Communist Party” was involved in the design selection. We finally brought the endeavor to a head by making a compromise to include a statue alongside the Maya Lin design. But there were those who demanded that construction not proceed.
Vice President Bush was engaged in getting a groundbreaking permit. And on March 26, 1982 ground was broken. In November 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated. I would see the Vice President from time to time at events. As soon as I approached he would always say, “Jan, it is great to see you!” For some reason he always remembered my name. He was always friendly.
In 1992 Chuck Hagel and I went to meet with then President Bush. We brought a group of Vietnam vets. He was friendly and animated with his fellow veterans. President Bush served in World War II as a pilot and nearly died when his plane was shot down. He was a genuine war hero.
In November 1992 there was an act that shows the integrity and compassion of President Bush. Late at night he and the First Lady arrived at The Wall. They took part in the Reading of the Names. Veteran. Patriot. He remembered those who were lost in Vietnam.
A few years ago I went to see President Bush in Houston. His health was not what it once was, but he found a way to stand up to take a picture. He gave me a donation for the Education Center and advised me on some wealthy Texans that I needed to meet.
In November 2012 I asked him to join the Ceremonial Groundbreaking for the Education Center at The Wall. I bet he would have flown from Texas if he could, but second best was that he allowed me to use his name on the invitation. When he joined on – everyone else did as well!
Good Luck, Mr. President. Get well soon. You are a great American!