Today millions are mourning the loss of an incredible man. He was blessed with longevity but people are judging him on the quality of his life.
He was born in a world of privilege but sought to excel on his own. He went to an exclusive boarding school and was president of the senior class. He could have used his connections (his father was a senator) to get easy duty during the war. Instead, he enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday.
He became the youngest naval aviator in the service. He flew a torpedo bomber aboard an aircraft carrier. One day he was on a mission to bomb the island of Chichijima. His engine caught fire but he still completed his mission before bailing out. He was the only man to end up near the island who wasn’t captured and executed by the Japanese.
He married Barbara Pierce in 1945. They were married an incredible 73 years. They had six children including a future president and a future governor. A daughter, Robin, died of leukemia at age three.
He went to Yale and was captain of the baseball team. He could easily have had a cushy job on Wall Street but chose a different path. He worked as a salesman for an oil service company to learn the business. He co-founded an oil company and later served as its president.
Like his father, he left the business world for public service. He served two terms in Congress. President Eisenhower saw his potential. He them served as UN ambassador, Chairman of the Republican National Committee during Watergate, ambassador to China and head of the CIA.
In 1980 he ran for the presidency but settle for being Reagan’s running mate. During his term as President he formed an incredible coalition to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and was witness to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He was a man of humility (which some mistook for weakness). He cared about people, often surprising them with acts of kindness. He was a man who lived life to the fullest, including a parachute jump on his 90th birthday.
Like Harry Truman, he was unpopular when he left the presidency but gained in respect as the years passed. I believe history will look upon him kindly.