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Baker receives George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service
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Baker receives George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service

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Several of the United States’ most historically influential leaders gathered in College Station on Wednesday evening for a conversation about the Gulf War and the presentation of the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

A crowd of around 400 people gathered at Texas A&M University’s Annenberg Presidential Center for the event hosted by the George and Barbara Bush Foundation. The recipient of the award, former Secretary of State Jim Baker III, was joined by former Vice President Dan Quayle and highlighted the lineup of prestigious public servants in attendance.

When Quayle and Baker were welcomed to the stage, they began a panel discussion on the 1991 Gulf War.

“I happen to believe that [the Gulf War] will go down in history as a textbook example of the way to fight a war,” Baker said. “Politically, militarily, diplomatically, economically — it was a textbook example. President [H.W.] Bush knew what he wanted to do, he defined victory … and did not exceed the war aims.”

To tie the ribbon around the Gulf War, Baker said, the U.S. got other countries to foot the bill for most of the conflict, with the United States only paying for around 12 percent of the cost, according to Pentagon calculations.

Other countries’ willingness to assist in paying for the conflict’s expenses is partially due to the Gulf War boasting the largest allied coalition since World War II.

Quayle asked Baker for his perspective on several current issues and events. When asked what America’s allies should think about where the United States is today, Baker said it is sad the U.S. has withdrawn from many leadership positions in the world.

“The world is better off when America leads,” Baker said. “When we are engaged internationally we are a force for peace and stability. We take a heavy burden when we take leadership internationally, but it works well for America and for the global community.”

After discussing foreign policy, the economy and China, Quayle presented Baker with the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service in honor of the 41st president.

“Jim, our country is grateful for your service and your place in history is fixed,” Quayle said. “It is a remarkable achievement and on this special occasion we are filled with respect and admiration for the great life of leadership and achievement you have led.”

Baker accepted the award, speaking fondly of his friend of 60 years who he nicknamed “Jefe,” the Spanish word for “boss.”

“[His] accomplishments make George [H.W.] Bush the very greatest one-term president in American history and, with Dan Quayle by his side, one of the very best presidents we have ever had,” Baker said. “Now Jefe, I know you are looking down at us tonight and I want to thank you for allowing me to take that wonderful ride with you through history.”

Before the panel discussion, Max Angerholzer, the Bush Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, remarked to the audience how important of a night it was.

“Today is going to be special, not only because we are commemorating the end of the Gulf War and the liberation of Kuwait, but also celebrating the George H.W. Bush award and giving it to a very deserving public servant,” Angerholzer said.

Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff to George W. Bush, introduced the next speaker, but first held a moment of silence honoring the late Colin Powell, who died Oct. 18 from complications of COVID-19.

“General Powell has passed, but his remarkable legacy lives on because he mentored so many wonderful young men and women in the military,” Card said. “He demonstrated for all of us what public service is about. It was hopeful that he would have been able to join us tonight for this discussion because he played a major role in what happened at the Gulf War.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, who now serves as the Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, followed Card, beginning the discussion of the Gulf War with his personal experience from Operation Desert Storm.

Welsh, a combat pilot in Operation Desert Storm, said although there have been a lot of U.S. military with combat experience today, in 1991, there were very few deployed to Desert Storm who had combat experience.

“Whether you experience it as the cold, soaking intensity of ground combat or the high-octane, sometimes chaotic closure of aerial combat, your first combat is an intensely personal experience,” Welsh said.

Welsh said although many of his memories have left in the 30 years since the Gulf War, he can still recall the sights, sounds and feelings of intense pride.

“I remember thinking, ‘We’re all in this together,’” Welsh said. “We’re connected not only to the airmen on this base, but the U.S. military, our allied partners and the people of Kuwait.”

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