As Americans watch their cities burn from the looting and rioting that followed the peaceful protests concerning the death of George Floyd, the calls for leadership have not been heeded. Today, however, George W. Bush stepped up and released a statement that expressed much of what the American people are feeling during this time of national tragedy.
As the former president explained, “[Him and his wife, Laura Bush] have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures-and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.” President Bush went on to explain how it is still a “shocking failure” that African-Americans, particularly young black men, still feel threatened and mistrusted by police in the United States, which includes African-Americans continuing to “see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions.” This led the former president to ask an important question: “How do we end systemic racism in this country?”
President Bush also drew a line between the peaceful protestors and the looters. He praised the peaceful protests as one of America’s “redeeming strengths” that is exemplified “when protestors, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future.” The former president also critiqued the rioters across the United States, explaining that “[l]ooting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress,” while acknowledging the fact that progress can only happen when there is “lasting peace” that comes from the equal justice that follows the “fairness and legitimacy of the legal system.”
The final point that President Bush made in his 516-word statement was to encourage the American people to live up to and conquer America’s greatest challenge: “to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity.” The answer to our present moment was to unite in “living up to American ideals” of every human being being equal in God’s eyes and given equal rights by God and to look to America’s heroes, the likes of which include Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for guidance in unifying this country towards the American ideals of freedom and justice.
President Bush’s statement is a strong reminder of the fact that the United States of America is still a project. A project that requires eternal diligence to ensure that the Founders’ promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness always extends to every American, regardless of their race, religion, or creed. During this time of tragedy over the ruthless murder of George Floyd, it is important for all Americans to put their guard down and start to reach out to one another and truly listen to what others have to say. This will require empathy and “a consistent, courageous, and creative effort” in the words of President Bush to create a more just, and a more perfect, union.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood, of the [American] Revolution.” This was the message of George W. Bush, a message sorely needed in America today.