It turns out that Lewis had not come to George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001 either. But that didn’t keep Bush from going to and offering a heartfelt eulogy at Lewis’s funeral in which the former President noted,
“John and I had our disagreements, of course, but in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action. We, the people, including congressmen and Presidents, can have different views on how to perfect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is at heart a good and noble one. We live in a better and nobler a country today because of John Lewis and his abiding faith in the power of God, in the power of democracy, and in the power of love to lift us all to a higher ground.”
That is the rhetoric we look to our head of state, and the leader of national opinion, to provide. I don’t mean to put George W. Bush on a pedestal. He is a flawed man who made serious mistakes in office (and would be the first to admit it). But he sought and still seeks to lead in ways that conform to the institution of the presidency, not the other way around. Given the monumental responsibilities invested in the presidency, there is honor and virtue in Bush’s approach to it.