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As the country celebrates the remarkable life of President George H.W. Bush, he is being remembered for his heart, his humor and his heroism.
But some have taken issue with this, perhaps, nostalgic image of the past, pointing out that the legacies of former presidents are often far more complex than what is portrayed. So, do we as a society idolize politicians when they die? Do we gloss over history? According to James Scott, an archivist at the Sacramento Public Library, it's complicated.
"I think you could make the case that's happening," Scott told ABC10. "But, at the same time, that Americans all understand that our president's have been imperfect. In the end, we as Americans — going all the way back to when George Washington passed in 1799 — we want to see the best in our leaders."
For President George H.W. Bush, that means celebrating his accomplishments during his four years in office — the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War; his passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act — and not his missteps.
"We can bring up the Aids crisis, and there are perceptions that it was neglected through the late 80's early 90's," Scott explained. "He may or may not have had a role in covering Iran-Contra. So these are all things that George H.W. Bush owns. It's just the way it is."
That's why, in moments like now of mourning, it's just the way it is that the happier memories — such as President Bush's first childhood nickname "Have Half" — are the ones we choose to relish.
"Whenever he got a sandwich from his mother, it was cut in half, and he took the sandwich and he tried to find someone to give the other half to," Scott recalled, "which I think kind of speaks to his sort abiding commitment to giving and certainly public service. Which, I think is going to resonate and we're going to hear a lot about it right now."
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