In a 1974 speech, the late Academy Award-winning actor John Wayne said this about the United States: “This is a good country, with good people in it. Good people don’t always agree. Maybe the best thing we do in this country is agree to disagree once in a while. (But) we’re shouting when we should be talking. We’re arguing when we should be conversing. We’re angry when we should be reasoning. I think the best single thing all of us can do is calm down. And maybe think a little bit more and talk a little bit less.”

Duke Wayne (yes, he’s my favorite actor) spoke these words 44 years ago during the era of the Vietnam War, Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon’s resignation. (For the record, Nixon was not impeached.)

John Wayne’s words are seemingly just as appropriate in 2018 as they were in 1974.

As Americans mourn the Nov. 30 death of President George Herbert Walker Bush, perhaps this is a good time to think about – and be thankful for – what unites us rather than dwell on what divides us.

Let’s look back for a moment or two on the patriotism and accomplishments of our 41st U.S. president.

As reported here and elsewhere this week, on his 18th birthday in 1942, G.H.W. Bush enlisted in the armed forces in the midst of World War II.

He was the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy when he received his wings. He flew 58 combat missions during World War II. On one mission over the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot, he was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and was rescued by a U.S. submarine.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

After the war, at Yale University, he excelled both in academics and sports. He was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, he began his career in the oil industry of West Texas. He served two terms as a representative to Congress from Texas. He was appointed as ambassador to the United Nations, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1980, after an unsuccessful campaign for president, G.H.W. Bush was chosen as a running mate by Ronald Reagan and served eight years as VP. In 1988, he defeated Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis for president.

Many Republican hard-liners on the right thought Bush 41 was too moderate, too hesitant to use sufficient force in some areas of the world. Such is their right, of course, thanks to World War II heroes like the former president.

Two current members of Congress from southern Ohio, however, had nothing but praise for Bush 41.

“George H.W. Bush did it all,” Sen. Rob Portman said. “He was a war hero, a congressman, an ambassador, vice president and president during one of the most momentous periods in our country's history. An early boss and mentor, President Bush was one of the most decent and honorable men I’ve ever known, and a model that I have tried to follow in my years in public service.”

Second District Congressman Brad Wenstrup said: “America has lost a great statesman and a true patriot in George H.W. Bush. From the skies over the Pacific in the Second World War to the halls of Congress, the UN, the CIA, and the White House, his life of service was a testament to his deep love for America and his dedication to making our nation and our world a better place.”

Even former President Barack Obama praised Bush 41: “What a testament to the qualities that make this country great. Service to others. Commitment to leaving behind something better. Sacrifice in the name of lifting this country closer to its founding ideals. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight – and all who were inspired by George and Barbara’s example. It’s a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he’d want all of us to try.

“After 73 years of marriage, George and Barbara Bush are together again, now two points of light that never dimmed, two points of light that ignited countless others with their example – the example of a man who, even after commanding the world’s mightiest military, once said ‘I got more of a kick out of being one of the founders of the YMCA in Midland, Texas back in 1952 than almost anything I’ve done.’”

I’ve read the pros and cons of the Bush political family. While Bush 41 and Bush 43 earned voters’ support to serve in the highest office in the land, I’ve often thought that Jeb Bush would have been the best president of the three. He had his chance in 2016, but it’s doubtful he even realized how drastically – and suddenly – the political landscape changed since his brother or father served in the Oval Office.

As John Wayne said more than four decades ago: “We’re shouting when we should be talking. We’re arguing when we should be conversing. We’re angry when we should be reasoning. I think the best single thing all of us can do is calm down. And maybe think a little bit more and talk a little bit less.”

Will America ever again elect a true patriot, officer, gentleman and statesman as president?

Requiescet in pace, President G.H.W. Bush.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.