I was struck last weekend by the particular words George H. W. Bush’s friends chose to honor him. Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author, said that Bush was a “good and decent man with character, civility, compromise and moderation.” Tom Brokaw said that Bush “was the same in person [in private] as he was in public, he was this modest man...he was so authentic.” Barbara had written similarly years earlier in her forward to her husband’s book of letters, “George H.W. Bush is the most decent, dearest man and the most loving father.”
These days it seems that everything needs to be defined by superlatives: the best, the most amazing, the greatest! Praising a public figure for his moderation and modesty seems quaint, just as some people question the tagline for our 75th anniversary - “Shouldn’t it be 75 years of excellence, not just good?” - or voice skepticism about our mission statement’s call to raising decent children. The problem with hyping human excellence and underrating modesty is that it separates us from the ground of our being and a proper understanding of our place in the scheme of things. As Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone.” Braggarts seem inauthentic and untrustworthy precisely because they are disconnected from the source of all that is truly good and beautiful. To be connected to that source is to be humbled.
My favorite images from both Bush presidents were when they appeared on stage alongside comedians doing often unflattering impressions of them. I trust people who can laugh at themselves. Both men were flawed, as we all are, but they knew that about themselves and were humbled rather than offended by or scared of that insight. In this season in which we celebrate the redeeming power of connection to a higher source, it seems fitting to honor the service of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.
The Rev. Canon Julian P. Bull is the third head of school of Campbell Hall (est. 1944), an Episcopal school in Los Angeles, California with 1130 students in grades K-12. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, his Master’s in Philosophy from Boston College, and his Master’s in Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary. Canon Bull is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.
Prior to coming to Campbell Hall in 2003, Rev. Bull served as Head of Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans and as the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Chair of the Diversity Committee, and Director of the Senior Humanities Program at Albuquerque Academy. He has served on the Boards of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the Independent School Association of the Southwest, St. James’ Episcopal School, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the Steering Committee for the Los Angeles School Heads, the Studio City Neighborhood Council, and has chaired the last two search committees for bishops of Los Angeles. He currently serves as the Chair of the Commission on Schools of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and is on the Advisory Board of the Collaborative for Spirituality in Education. He and his wife Katie have enjoyed raising their two sons as 13-year Campbell Hall students. Rev. Bull enjoys tennis, hiking, and playing bridge in his spare time.
4533 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Studio City, CA 91607 Phone 818.980.7280
Campbell Hall is an independent, Episcopal, K-12 all gender day school. We are a community of inquiry committed to academic excellence and to the nurturing of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.
Nondiscriminatory Policy as to Students Campbell Hall admits students of any race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletics and other school-administered programs.