The judgments of history are kinder, and a case could be made that George Bush gave America its most successful one-term presidency. That’s not the distinction we were hoping for then, but looking back it’s remarkable to count his achievements. Even the economy, which withstood a brief recession that hurt us politically, was growing at a rate of more than 6% by the end of the term. That doesn’t look bad in retrospect.

President Bush found a way to get things done with a Congress controlled by the other party. He respected the legislative branch, and lawmakers knew it. He never answered opposition with petulance or heavy-handedness. He worked faithfully with Congress; any president owes at least that much to the country.

For me, loyalty to President Bush was the easiest part. He was the kind of person who inspired loyal friendship even without the title, someone whose good opinion you wanted because of the kind of man he was. Our 41st president was the most honorable, decent and capable of gentlemen—as close to the ideal of the office as anyone in our lifetimes. If you’re looking for a role model, I told my children when they were growing up, start with George Bush.