President George H.W. Bush (standing illegibly on center platform) at Federal Hall, April 30, 1989. The white specks are not snow but confetti to celebrate the bicentennial of George Washington’s First Inaugural.

Let me be the first to acknowledge that the image here is not the clearest. I wanted to share it however not for its clarity but for its historical significance: in the middle of the image, admittedly impossible to make out, is President George H.W. Bush. This New York Times photo was taken at Federal Hall on Wall Street on April 30, 1989. The occasion was the bicentennial of George Washington’s First Inaugural, which had taken place on the same spot two hundred years earlier. I wanted to share t because today is the day of mourning for the 41st president.

Coupled with the death of John McCain earlier in the year it seems that 2018 really is the end of something, the end of what I am exactly not certain, but the end of something nonetheless. Watching Bob Dole struggle to attention to pay his respects in the Capitol rotunda was profoundly moving. I don’t idealize the past or political figures–I spend half my time telling students not to look away or respond cynically to the sausage making that is baked in to the process. I agreed and disagreed with various aspects of each of these three men’s choices. That said, at their best they represented something better and larger than themselves. Notions of service, grace, kindness, civility, and respect for others. Wherever we are on the spectrum, it is something to think about on this national day of mourning.