On Monday, speaking at the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol to commemorate the life of George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, Vice President Mike Pence told a beautiful story about Bush and Pence’s son Mike, who is a Marine aviator, that occurred only months before Bush passed away. The story was a tribute to the class, elegance and strength of the man who served his country in so many ways.
With Bush’s family looking on, the reaction of the family to Pence’s speech was a touching reminder of how genuinely close the family was and is. Pence stated:
I'm told that he started writing letters to his parents when he was 18 years old, and over time his circle of correspondence grew to include family, friends, advisers, staff, business associates, former Presidents, and just about anyone who would take the trouble to write him.
After a lifetime of writing letters, my son got one just not too long ago. As I told two of his sons this weekend, when our son made his first tailhook landing as a Marine aviator on the U.S.S. George Herbert Walker Bush, I took the liberty of writing that ship’s namesake to ask for a small favor.
I didn’t write to him as a Vice President to a former President, I just wrote as a proud dad of a Marine aviator to a former Navy pilot. I asked him to sign a picture of the flight deck that I could give to my son.
Now, we were told by the staff that the President had long since ended the practice of signing autographs, and we understood that. But little to my surprise, just in time for my son’s winging, there came not only a signed photograph, but, of course, a letter, hand-signed as well -- August 2018. In that letter, President Bush wrote to my son, in his words, “Congratulations on receiving your 'wings of gold.' I know how proud you and your family are at this moment.”
And then in words that assured us that the letter came directly from him, he wrote, quote, “Though we have not met, I share the pride your father has for you during this momentous occasion. And I wish you many CAVU days ahead. All the best, G Bush.”
I would come to learn that that acronym, CAVU for short, is a term Navy pilots have used since World War II. It stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.
President Bush described CAVU, in his words, as “the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific.” And he once wrote a letter to his children saying that CAVU, in his words, “describes my own life as it has been over the years, as it is right now.” Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.
You know, that may well describe the essence of this man. And it may well have been his vision. The vision he had for his life, for his children, his children’s children, and his country: no barriers, no boundaries, no limits.