This week, the nation celebrated the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush: a devoted public servant and champion of American global leadership. He began his life in the public service in 1967 as Congressman for Texas’ 7th District. Yet over the next 26 years, he would go on not only to the highest office in the land, but also serve as master diplomat both as ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Envoy to China.
President Bush knew the value of strong U.S. leadership and maintaining our nation’s presence on the international stage—particularly in the face of significant geopolitical developments, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the Gulf War in the early 1990s. His approach to foreign affairs was both principled and pragmatic—and he was not afraid to take a bold stance, especially when it came to exerting U.S. leadership through our civilian tools.
President Bush is lauded for leading our nation out of the Cold War—all without a single shot fired—and continually promoting the U.S. as a beacon of freedom and hope—a notion that still inspires us today.
In honor of the late president, here are five inspirational moments from President George H.W. Bush’s annual State of the Union speeches that capture his resounding belief in the importance of America’s global leadership.
- “We meet at a time of extraordinary hope. Never before in this century have our values of freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity been such a powerful and intellectual force around the globe. Never before has our leadership been so crucial, because while America has its eyes on the future, the world has its eyes on America.” – 1989 State of the Union
- “In many regions of the world tonight, the reality is conflict, not peace. Enduring animosities and opposing interests remain. And thus, the cause of peace must be served by an America strong enough and sure enough to defend our interests and our ideals.” – 1990 State of the Union
- “For two centuries, America has served the world as an inspiring example of freedom and democracy. For generations, America has led the struggle to preserve and extend the blessings of liberty. And today, in a rapidly changing world, American leadership is indispensable. Americans know that leadership brings burdens and sacrifices. But we also know why the hopes of humanity turn to us. We are Americans; we have a unique responsibility to do the hard work of freedom. And when we do, freedom works.” – 1991 State of the Union
- “Among the nations of the world, only the United States of America has both the moral standing and the means to back it up. We’re the only nation on this Earth that could assemble the forces of peace. This is the burden of leadership and the strength that has made America the beacon of freedom in a searching world.” – 1991 State of the Union
- “There are those who say that now we can turn away from the world, that we have no special role, no special place. But we are the United States of America, the leader of the West that has become the leader of the world. And as long as I am President, I will continue to lead in support of freedom everywhere, not out of arrogance, not out of altruism, but for the safety and security of our children.” – 1992 State of the Union