A Letter from Ken Hersh, President and CEO of the Bush Center

Learn more about Kenneth A. Hersh.
Kenneth A. Hersh
President and Chief Executive Officer
George W. Bush Presidential Center

In the wake of the tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Ken Hersh reflects on American values and culture.

America is a great country.

While our democracy is often coined as an “experiment,” there is nothing experimental about the fabric of a nation knit together over generations that can trace their ancestry to far-away lands. Our culture is a unique blend of origins that has come together to produce some of the most innovative developments in industry, art, science, and technology in human history.  Our mosaic has imperfections if you look close, but taken as a whole, it is a beautiful reflection of what the human spirit can achieve if allowed to flourish.

As the nation mourns two more senseless and devastating attacks on innocent Americans, this time in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, we do know this: Try as killers might, the United States in all its imperfections and divisions still stands as a better country for the diversity it encompasses. We refuse to let the abhorrent, evil actions and ideas of a few define us.

El Paso epitomizes the advantages of diversity as well as any city in our country. A border community that has existed for more 400 years, the town has the largest bilingual, binational, bicultural workforce in the world. The average age of those workers is only 31, which means El Paso will continue to have a burgeoning workforce to draw from in the future. 

In an interview last summer for the Bush Institute’s book, Listening to Leaders, Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, cited these attributes in explaining his city’s value when compared to the nearby Permian Basin, whose vast energy reserves are their own enviable resource. El Paso’s rich diversity is why he believes his city benefits from the commerce, relationships, and culture that exist on both sides of the border.

Even the Walmart where a killer launched his hate-fueled attack is its own proving ground for the benefits of a diverse community. In drawing from El Paso and the neighboring community of Juarez, Mexico, the New York Times reports that that store is one of the chain’s 10 largest in the nation, drawing over four times the number of customers compared to its average store.

We recognize that statistics will do little to heal the deep wounds our fellow Texans experienced on Saturday, just as the good citizens of Dayton put their loved ones to rest this very week. We grieve with the families and with the nation.

We at the Bush Center remain committed to the values of President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush. These values are as timeless as the American Dream. And, at a time like this, we are inspired by President Bush’s words in his October 2017 Spirit of Liberty address.

As he emphasized then:

At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

Of course, it is past time for just prayers and sympathies. As President Bush also said, “The American spirit does not say, ‘We shall manage,’ or ‘We shall make the best of it.’ It says, ‘We shall overcome.’”

He concluded:

We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

There is a power in the essential truth of our creed. We hold as self-evident that all people are created equal. No gunman will diminish that power; that power is woven into the very fabric of the nation.