During her recent trip to Washington, D.C., for President George H. W. Bush’s funeral, Nikki Haley, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, sat down for an interview with The Atlantic.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Uri Friedman: We’re meeting on a pretty solemn day. What’s been on your mind in recent days regarding President Bush? What do you see as, for you, the enduring lesson of his presidency?
Nikki Haley: I think the biggest impact that I have felt with the funeral and everything is seeing that image of Senator Dole saluting the president. That encompasses so much of what America is. That’s the Greatest Generation, the idea that we go through life, we do the best we can, but at the end of the day, how admirable and honorable these people are—just the respect of that was pretty amazing to watch. To look at President Bush’s life, it’s hard not to look at it and say, so many doors opened for him. They weren’t always the doors he wanted, but he walked through them, and it really was a life well lived. He served no matter what he was presented with, and he did it honorably. And to look at the gamut of what he served—obviously a veteran who’s been shot down, but then you go into the idea that he was party chair, that he was UN ambassador, that he was CIA, that he represented us in China, and then vice president and president. That’s an unbelievable life. The unfortunate part was I think he got beat up a lot of the time, but you hope he’s watching all the praise that he’s getting now.