USPS Issues Forever Stamp Honoring George H.W. Bush
A stamp featuring the portrait of former President George H.W. Bush was issued Wednesday on what would have been his 95th birthday, a tribute that his colleagues and family called fitting for a man who wrote letters by the thousands.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) dedicated the Forever stamp in honor of the 41st president, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94. His grandson, Pierce Bush, said at the ceremony that the former president sometimes struggled to articulate his feelings in spoken words, but with a pen in hand, “his true heartbeat came alive.”
The tradition of placing the images of former presidents on postage stamps began in 1847 with George Washington. Hon. Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, called Bush’s Forever stamp an appropriate honor for a president whose handwritten notes “taught us how to serve, how to live and how to love.”
Friends and colleagues of Bush gathered with more than 100 others for the ceremony, held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on the Texas A&M University campus, which is also home to the Bush School of Government & Public Service and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Warren Finch, the library’s director, said Bush – modest to the point of questioning why so many exhibits focused on him – was always quick to give credit to others, having been told by his mother as a child not to be “a braggadocio.”
“He never forgot that admonishment, but today I think she would be proud and approve of this stamp, which is a fitting tribute to a man who answered his country’s call so many times,” Finch said.
Bush was able to choose the portrait for his stamp before he died in November. Painted by artist Michael J. Deas, the image is based on a photograph of Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders that appeared on a 1997 cover of Texas Monthly accompanying a story about the dedication of his presidential library in College Station. As a Forever stamp, it will always be valid for first-class postage regardless of rate increases.
After a performance by the Texas A&M University Singing Cadets, speakers at the ceremony remarked on Bush’s prolific output of letters – of which many audience members said they were on the receiving end.
Jean Becker, Bush’s longtime chief of staff, said the former president’s office mailed an estimated 149,700 congratulatory letters since 1993. A team of volunteers, some of whom started working with Bush in the 1960s, would visit the office to open, sort and help answer Bush’s mail. Several members of that team, as well as Bush’s director of correspondence, attended the ceremony.
Pierce Bush said the stamp will continue to advance the form in which his grandfather’s expressions of a kinder, gentler America “were second to none.” Bush’s correspondence ranged from humorous notes to his grandchildren to love letters to his wife, not to mention thousands of messages of congratulations or best wishes to friends and colleagues. And as a young naval aviator sometimes tasked with censoring outgoing mail written by his shipmates, Pierce Bush said, it was through reading letters that the former president learned about life, love, courage and the diversity of the United States.
“At a very young age he could say that the United States mail service forever influenced Gampy’s understanding of the broader world and human condition, enabling him to clearly see past the unique privilege of his Greenwich, Conn. upbringing,” Pierce Bush said.
Gen. Mark A. Welsh, dean of the Bush School of Government & Public Service, described the stamp dedication as another way of affirming that the school’s namesake was “a great public servant” deserving of appreciation and respect.
“We believe he was a role model who we should emulate, and that our students should aspire to his principled leadership and professional values. The school should always keep those in the fabric of what it does and try to inspire people to follow in his footsteps,” Welsh said.
Wednesday’s ceremony was followed by a celebration at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in observance of Bush’s birthday and what would have been Barbara Bush’s 94th birthday on June 8.