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Bush: a friend to Bermuda

  • Close relationship: US President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fly kites as Sir John Swan, the Premier, looks on at Government House when they met in Bermuda to discuss the collapse of the Soviet Union in April 1990 (File photograph)
  • Good Friday: George H.W. Bush enjoys traditional kite flying on Government House grounds with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in April 1990 (File photograph)
  • Meeting of minds: Sir John Swan, the Premier of Bermuda, meets United States President Ronald Reagan, right, Vice-President George H.W. Bush, centre, and Colin Powell, the US national security adviser and later secretary of state (File photograph)

Today’s broken world needs more leaders with the personal touch of George H.W. Bush, his close ally Sir John Swan said yesterday.

Former American president and “friend of Bermuda” Mr Bush, who died at his Texas home on Friday aged 94, was remembered by Sir John for his integrity, loyalty and willingness to build human relationships.

Sir John, the Premier of Bermuda from 1982 to 1995, also recalled how the President’s friendship with the island helped stand it in good stead on the international scale.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I was very fortunate to be around at a time when a president was for all people.

“Integrity was his greatest asset. We knew where we stood at all times.

“It’s what you want in a leader, particularly in a time like this, when the world is a bit fallen apart and needs to stitch itself back together.

“Our leaders have got to build relationships with all people. If not, we will end up with a bunch of individuals with his own agenda. We should be our brother’s keeper. I learnt a lot from him.”

Mr Bush, who served as the 41st President of the United States between 1989 and 1993, visited Bermuda for the Good Friday Summit in 1990, along with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to discuss the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It was part of a continuing series of talks between Western Allies who were attempting to keep abreast of the radical developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

He was in Bermuda again in 1991 for a meeting with British Prime Minister John Major, after the allied defeat of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf war.

Sir John had been friends with Mr Bush since his days as Vice-President in the 1980s.

The pair had established a rapport when Sir John was rallying US President Ronald Reagan to support negotiations, which led to the 1988 US Bermuda Tax Treaty.

Sir John said: “He was a very special person. He was the most loyal person I have ever known sit in the high office if he was your friend, which he was mine.

“He included me in everything he did, not only physically but also his thoughts. I had the great privilege of doing many, many things with him.

“We both had a lot of laughs together and a lot of meals together. I was very fortunate to know a man who helped mould my thinking on an international scale and also a human scale.

“He could make you laugh but at the same time when he was serious, he could get very focused.”

Sir John said Mr Bush was 100 per cent behind the US Bermuda Tax Treaty.

He said: “He was very much a friend of Bermuda. He liked Bermuda. He liked the people and liked what he saw here. He liked what we did to steer our country with fiscal responsibility but also with a social conscience.

“It’s important that in Bermuda we build very strong international relationships on a personal basis, so that when we need support that we have someone to turn to.”

Mr Bush’s 1990 visit included a lighter note, in which he and Mrs Thatcher took part in traditional kite flying on Government House grounds.

The media reported how Mr Bush joked that he was one of the better kite flyers in Washington. He told reporters: “I’m often told to go fly my kite. And I have a bunch of them.”

Mr Bush also declared he would make the most of his trip to the island paradise by playing golf, even if the forecast of rainstorms proved correct.

He said: “If it rains, I’m going to play. I’m going to play golf.”

During that visit, Sir John and Lady Swan hosted a gala dinner for Mr Bush and Mrs Thatcher at Camden, the Premier’s official residence.

It was one of many occasions Sir John got to know the President’s true personality.

Sir John said: “The most important thing about him was that he was the most loyal soul you could ever meet.

“He was the most humanitarian individual you ever come across. If you really got to know him, you found he had a wonderful humanitarian streak.

“He loved his wife to death. Those two just really enjoyed each other’s company.

“His passing is sad, but I would rather him go in peace as he brought so much peace to the world.

“I send my sincere condolences to his family. I know them well. I know this is a sad time, but we all must pass. He chose to say goodbye when he could say goodbye. This is one of the greats passing on.”

Walter Roban, the Acting Premier, extended condolences to the US on behalf of Bermuda.

Mr Roban wrote in a letter of condolence to US Consul General Constance Dierman: “Over the next several days, President George H.W. Bush’s legacy will be remembered for many things.

“And among them we will remember his passionate belief of collaborating with domestic and global allies to address the challenges facing our world. Bermuda’s thoughts are with the Bush family at this sad time.”

Ms Dierman said: “President Bush embodied the virtues of public service, selfless dedication, and humility.

“He was a patriot, and everything he did in life was directed to helping the American people and to building and growing relationships around the world, especially here in Bermuda.”

A condolence book is open to the public today, tomorrow and Thursday, from 1pm to 4pm, at the Consulate General, Middle Road, Devonshire.

The Consulate will be closed for a day of mourning on Wednesday. All appointments will be rescheduled. For emergenices, call 335-3828.

To read Walter Roban’s letter, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”