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Former President George H.W. Bush's Career In Public Service

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to spend today's program remembering President George H.W. Bush, who died yesterday. He was 94 years old. President Bush lived a long life dedicated to public service - as a Navy pilot in World War II, then as a Texas congressman. He later became ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. liaison to China, director of the CIA, vice president in the administration of Ronald Reagan and then the 41st president of the United States. Bush was not known as a wordsmith but is known for seeking a kinder, gentler nation when he won his party's nomination as well as this famously catchy promise.

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GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Read my lips...

(CHEERING)

BUSH: ...No new taxes.

MARTIN: Now, that promise became a liability for President Bush after he did indeed raise taxes. But he was appreciated for his strong commitment to public service. In his 1989 inaugural address, he called on the American people to rediscover their own commitment to civic engagement and self-sacrifice.

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BUSH: The old ideas are new again because they're not old. They are timeless - duty, sacrifice, commitment and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.

MARTIN: The presidency of George H.W. Bush was defined by key foreign policy decisions, most especially organizing an international coalition to repel the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990.

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BUSH: Five months ago, Saddam Hussein started this cruel war against Kuwait. Tonight, the battle has been joined.

MARTIN: He was also in office during the fall of the Soviet Union. On Christmas Day, 1991, he took to the air to inform Americans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: The Soviet Union itself is no more. This is a victory for democracy and freedom. It's a victory for the moral force of our values.

BUSH: But President Bush's accomplishments abroad were not enough to win re-election. Here is a clip of President George H.W. Bush in a 1999 C-SPAN interview looking back on the experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: You learn that there's a life beyond your own personal defeat. You learn that you've got to be gracious in victory and defeat. There's so many lessons you can get out of a defeat. But there's a lot of lessons you can learn in victory, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.