Remembering George H.W. Bush and his time in the UP

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - As Former President George H.W. Bush was honored Wednesday with a state funeral in Washington D.C., local Marquette residents are remembering the late president’s time in the UP.

Sixteen years before George H.W. Bush became the 41st president of the United States, he gave the commencement address at Northern Michigan University on December 22, 1973.

At that time Bush was the chairman for the Republican National Committee and second choice for commencement.

"You have to in terms of what is happened since then, he becoming president now passing, it’s a whole different way of looking at George H.W. Bush," said Russell Magnaghi, a Northern Michigan University Historian.

In 1973, it was reported that Bush had no interest in running in future elections. However, in commencement address he did discuss worldwide issues and told NMU students to appreciate and even get involved in politics.

He said, "I have that inner strength that comes from environment and participation, right or wrong, I’m in the ballgame."

And in that ballgame he did stay.

"He sort of took his own advice and went on to become president and usually you don’t have that happen with commencement speakers who give out advice at the end of their career, for him it was just the beginning," added Magnaghi.

Host of The Ryan Report, TV6's Don Ryan remembers when the late Bush came to Marquette in 1980. At the time, Ryan was with Cleveland-Cliffs and was to brief the future president about the state of iron ore industry.

"The mines had been going through some difficult times back then, so this was an opportunity to get the attention of Washington on a critical issue, so it was pretty exciting for me," said Ryan.

George H.W. Bush of course then went on to become the 41st president in 1989 laying out a legacy in foreign policy.

"He shepherd us through the end of the Cold War and reunification of Germany," said Steven Nelson, Political Science Professor at Northern Michigan University.

President Bush even met with the NMU wildcats at the White House after they were crowned the 1991 NCAA hockey champions.

In 1992 Bush became the first and only sitting president to ever lead the Mackinac Bridge walk.

"He did stay overnight and that impresses me," added Nelson.

The former is set to be buried at his Presidential Library in Texas Thursday at 6 p.m. after a private memorial ceremony.

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