People before politics: a lesson in respect for others

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The cliché of death bringing people together will never be cheerful, but it holds true time and time again. Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away last Tuesday, April 17, at age 92. She married and gave birth to presidents who aligned themselves with the Republican party. But, when she passed, political affiliation could not have meant less as people remembered the person she was. Conservatives and liberals alike have shown a tremendous outpouring of love for the late first lady. From Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Democratic Texas governor candidate Lupe Valdez, the Obama family to the Pence family, many have shared absolute respect for her and fond memories of her warm personality.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe I’m looking for something. and that’s why I’m finding it. Regardless, I think there is a lesson here we can all appreciate. As people send their condolences to the Bush family for their loss, they are fondly remembering a human being instead of politics. Students at SMU have shown their admiration for her by leaving flowers outside the President George W. Bush library here on campus. The flowers aren’t to thank her for being a member of a conservative family, but rather to show their appreciation for the woman that stood for literacy and kindness toward others.

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Mourners left flowers, American flags and other items in front of the Bush Presidential Library after the death of Barbara Bush.

There is a difference between a person and their politics. It is true that some of the politics may be linked to morals that define their personality. If you don’t feel strongly about a change, your fight to enact a policy is far less likely to be a strong one. But it’s important to see and respect the person beneath those politics and to do so before they’ve died. Some of my dearest friends could not have more fundamentally opposite views from my own, but I care about who they are. Their kindness, their loyalty, their giving and loving natures — those are the attributes that allow me to call them friends.

As Barbara Bush once said, “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.” Consider what kind of person you want to be, no matter the person with whom you’re speaking, and do it before they’re gone.

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