George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, traveled all over the world to deal with international affairs.
But in 1998, Bush—who died Nov. 30—traveled to Duke's campus to deliver the commencement ceremony address.
"My class was 1948," he said in the address, as quoted by Duke Today. "We had all come back from the war, sights high, optimism raging. Most of us went off in different parts of the country to work. We'd seen in World War II many classmates die. Indeed, 245 Duke graduates gave their lives fighting for the cause of freedom in World War II."
Bush said the students were entering a safer world than one faced by past generations but also warned them to stay engaged in solving social and political problems.
"Help others, all the while giving credit to someone else," he said. "Will you say politics is lousy and all politicians are crooks and sit whining on the sidelines? Or are you going to serve society and serve your country?"
Bush also noted that he valued most the support of his family and friends.
"I was president of the United States of America, and I concluded that what matters is your family and your faith and your friends and that you've made friends who will last you a lifetime," he said. "Most of all, you've been blessed by the abiding love of parents which have guided you—you've been blessed by the values they've taught you, which will sustain you through success and hard times alike."
He continued his speech, giving graduates motivation not to take the easy way through life.
"You've been given all this and more so what will you do with your life?" Bush said. "Will you constantly bitch and sit on the sidelines, complaining when things go wrong? Are you going to be selfish and say 'Why me?' or 'If it feels good I'll do it?' Or will you roll up your sleeves and put something back or will you strive to lift someone up?"
In honor of Bush, all flags on campus have been lowered for 30 days.
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