It was a big part of his appeal that Bush never saw himself as a towering person in American life. After he left office, his aides tried to steer him into “big and important” work, but as he wrote to one of them: “I don’t have myself cast as a big and important person. I want to be a tiny point of light. … I don’t crave sitting at the head of the table.”
That quality was present when he was in office as well. As historian Jon Meacham recounts in his book “The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” his humility guided him during some of the nation’s most difficult crises.
When President Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt shortly after taking office, Vice President Bush was traveling. On the plane returning to Washington, he was determined not to be officious or take charge in a disrespectful way while “my friend” Reagan was fighting for his life. When John Matheny, his Air Force aide, suggested that he land on the South Lawn instead of at Andrews Air Force Base so he could get to the White House more quickly, Bush refused. “John,” he said, “only the president lands on the South Lawn.”