He was known as a man of faith and integrity. When he stepped down, after seven years on the job, he was the subject of tributes by people from many walks of life. For once, everyone in the press seemed in universal agreement: Here was someone who would be missed.
No, I'm not talking about George Bush.
By this time, it doesn't seem that much more can be said about the debacle that will be known as George Bush's presidency. It's been interesting to note how, as the days wound down and assessments were offered about what this administration has accomplished, even the most fervent Bush loyalists seemed overtaken by a flu-like exhaustion. No one - themselves included - seemed to believe anything they had to say anymore.
All anyone wanted was to get this thing over with.
As Bush himself said, the day after Barack Obama's inauguration he planned on waking up in Texas and making his wife a cup of coffee. With luck, he didn't spill it.
Bush's retirement from office coincided with the departure of another leader, Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Last week, it was fascinating to see the way the two men's exits ran parallel to one another - and to note the differences.
Dungy took over in Indianapolis one year after George Bush's first inauguration as 43rd president of the United States. But, last week, if you were visiting from another planet you could have been forgiven for thinking that the leader of the free world was the guy stepping down in Indianapolis while the coach in Washington, D.C., was being replaced.
That's not just because local media treated Dungy like he was a head of state, going so far as to provide live television coverage of his farewell news conference as well as a banner headline on the front page of the city's daily paper.
It was because of what people had to say about the man.
Sportswriter Bob Kravitz wrote, "Dungy taught people. He touched people. He moved people. He was more than a football coach, which is why he is leaving us now, to return home, to teach and touch and move others."
There were stories about the low-profile work Dungy did in the community, contributing his time and resources to local churches and schools, not only in Indianapolis, but in Tampa, where he coached previously and has his family home. "Most of the time, cities are ready to get rid of their coaches," the Rev. Clarence Moore of Northside New Era Missionary Baptist Church told The Star
, "but in this case it is almost like a funeral because we loved him so much and because the intangible presence of the man was larger than football."
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune
wrote of Dungy, "He treated everyone with respect, not just the players. He was honest with people. He was not condescending with the media or with fans. Petulance and suspicion didn't creep into him the way they tend to with a lot of coaches."
Although it is not entirely clear what Dungy will do now that he's no longer coaching the Colts, indications are that he will be involved with projects aimed at mentoring young black males, including, perhaps, a prison ministry. The book he published last year, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life
, has reportedly sold more than a million copies.
The headline on The Star
's editorial page summed things up: "Leading by example, bowing out with class."
These are the kinds of words you would hope people might say about a president who was stepping down after two terms in office. They speak to a quality of leadership that's been lacking at our highest levels for a long time.
At his final news conference, Bush adamantly rejected the suggestion that the presidency was a lonely job. "We had fun," he said of working with his West Wing team.
Presumably even more fun is in store for Mr. Bush now that he is free from whatever burdens war, natural disasters and a cratering economy may have placed upon him. We know even less about his post-presidency plans than we do about how Mr. Dungy intends to spend his time. "When I get out of here, I'm getting off the stage," said the commander-in-haste. "I've had my time in the klieg lights."
It appears that publishers have more interest in a memoir by the president's wife, Laura, than they do in a book written by - or for - the president himself. "Certainly the longer he waits, the better," Marji Ross, president of politically conservative publishing house Regnery Press, told the Huffington Post
about interest in a presidential tome.
As Tony Dungy liked to say: Next man up!