President Inspires Nation To ‘Always Do Your Best’

by Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman

Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman, Guaranty Bank, SpringfieldLike many of you, I was saddened when I heard that former President George H.W. Bush passed away late in the evening on Friday, Nov. 30. I spent some of that first weekend in December reading tributes from former and current U.S. leaders, Bush’s friends and colleagues, as well as world leaders. I also found myself going back in time as I watched news coverage of Bush’s life that spanned 94 years, from his days as a World War II combat pilot to this past April when he said good-bye to his wife, Barbara.

The death of our 41st president was still on my mind as I drove to Kansas City that Tuesday for MBA’s 2018 Executive Management Conference. The drive allowed me plenty of time to reflect on Bush’s legacy to our nation. In doing so, I came to realize that there are many lessons from Bush that we can follow in our lives. Regardless of your politics, Bush’s commitment to his career, to his country and to his family is a reminder for all of us.

From Texas oilman to U.S. president, Bush held many titles throughout his career. He was a Republican congressman who had lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, chaired the Republican National Committee, served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and led the CIA. After running unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in 1980, Ronald Reagan chose Bush to be his vice president. Bush spent eight years as vice president before becoming elected in 1988. He would only serve one term as president, losing to Bill Clinton in 1992.

Bush certainly had numerous distinctions throughout his careers. He also had his share of setbacks, including those seen by millions worldwide. Yet, the manner in which Bush responded to these defeats showed us his grace. Before leaving the White House in January 1993, he left a handwritten note for Clinton, telling him that “You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

At one point, we have all experienced obstacles in our careers. And, some of us may have failed. How did you handle these defeats? Did you own up to your shortcomings? Did you learn from your mistakes? If you lost out on a promotion or new account, did you congratulate your colleague or competitor? Your answers to these questions reveal more about you as an individual. 

Bush was the last of the “greatest generation” to hold the office of the U.S. president. When Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy during World War II. His duty to country never left him throughout his life. After leaving office, Bush raised money to support various causes, including literacy, cancer research and volunteerism. In 2004, he and Clinton worked together to raise money for devastation caused by the Asian tsunami. The next year, the two former presidents — who were once political foes — teamed up again to support those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In my November column, I highlighted the numerous ways bankers support their communities through various types of service and volunteerism. Every day, you join millions throughout this country to volunteer your time and resources to causes that have a special meaning for you. You do this because you want to see your communities thrive, and you want to see individuals succeed. Once again, I thank you for your commitment. You embody what Bush believed about service … “The American Dream means … giving something back. No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others.

And, I would argue that a definition of a successful life must include family. There’s no denying the love Bush had for Barbara, his children and his family. Married for 73 years, he and Barbara were each other’s biggest champion. They encouraged one another in their endeavors,
joked with one another, raised a family, endured the loss of child together and argued like married couples do. At the end of the day, George and Barbara knew that family was all that mattered. It only seems fitting that his last words were “I love you, too.

In our lives, it doesn’t matter if we have the highest title or rank in our careers. It doesn’t matter if we have everything that money can buy. If we don’t have our person — the one we turn to in times of joy and defeat — we are missing the greatest gift one can receive. The love and support of those closest to us gives us the strength and motivation to reach our goals and do our absolute best. We each have someone at our homes and our banks rooting for us … these individuals know what we are capable of doing, and they will push and support us because they believe in us. 

This time of the year finds many of us juggling projects to complete before the end of the year, attending holiday performances by our children and preparing for visits with family and friends. As you celebrate the holiday season, my hope is that you enjoy the time with your family
and friends. Appreciate these moments surrounded by your loved ones who inspire you to “be bold in your caring, be bold in your dreaming and above all else, always do your best.

Shaun Burke is president and CEO of Guaranty Bank in Springfield. Burke has led Guaranty Bank since 2004 and has more than 30 years of banking experience. He has served on the MBA Board of Directors since 2012 and has chaired the MBA’s Legislative Affairs Committee and the Budget and Audit Committee.