Today, at 11:00am ET, former Presidents, dignitaries, family members and others pay tribute to the 41st President of the Unites States, George H.W. Bush. For the purpose of this website, it is a day to remember all that President Bush did for those with brain injuries, and for those with disabilities, at large.
President Bush was America’s last president to serve in the military overseas at war. (President Clinton, President Obama and President Trump did not serve. President George W. Bush served stateside as a pilot during the Vietnam War.) Specifically, as a 20-year-old man, he served as a pilot in the Pacific during World War II. As detailed in the book Flyboys, on September 2, 1944, while targeting a Japanese radio transmitter on the island of Chichijima, his plane was shot over the Pacific Ocean. Bush did not abandon his plane, instead continuing to fight until his plane went down. One source states that his injuries from this combat tragedy, that took the lives of many of his squadron, included “bleeding from a headwound”.
“Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me?… there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something of Earth,” Bush later said about his trauma in WWII. For those with disabilities, part of that reason was definitely his signing of the American Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA aimed for equal opportunity for those with disabilities. While a list of what impairments constitute a disability is not defined in the Act, a disability is defined as, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” These limiting impairments include, “functions of the… neurological, brain…”
Following his presidency, President Bush continued to support those with brain injury. For example, in 1996, President Bush created a PSA for the Pediatric Brain Injury Prevention Campaign. Prior to the PSA, the Campaign had no association with President Bush. He agreed to do the PSA simply based on a request submitted through letter.
Recently, President Bush suffered through his own trauma – vascular Parkinsonism. Thought to be caused by a multitude of mini strokes, vascular Parkinsonism is so named because it shares many of the characteristics of Parkinson’s disease. (Some dispute this correlation, as Parkinson’s can be helped by medication, but vascular Parkinsonism cannot.) On Friday, November 30, 2018, President, Vice President, Congressman and CIA Director Bush passed away. After his funeral, his body will travel to Texas where he will be laid to rest next to his wife of over 70 years, Barbara and his young daughter Robin. For the disabled, his legacy of the ADA will continue.