It was July 1989 in Paris on the 200th Anniversary of the French Revolution. The G7 heads of state had met there for the regular consultation of the world’s seven largest economies. They joined in the celebration with the French people and viewed a spectacular parade along the Champs Elysees, complete with military jet flyovers.

As the meeting came to a close, U.S. President George H.W. Bush held the traditional closing press conference on the lawn of the Hôtel Rothschild, which serves as the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Paris. After taking all the reporters’ questions – some of which were, as usual and appropriately, adversarial – the cameras were shut down and the president stepped off the riser and approached the media.

Gesturing toward the majestic ambassadorial residence, the president asked, “Would anyone like to go on a quick tour?” The reporters eagerly said yes and the president waved to the staff to make sure we knew we were included. “Come on,” he said, and we all – reporters and staff alike – followed him into the building, where the president showed us the spectacular interior architecture and decoration. We strolled together in mutual admiration of the wonders we were seeing.

My point? President Bush, who passed away on Friday at age 94, was thoughtful, gracious and fun. He didn’t always like the treatment he received from the media, but he understood the role of the press and respected the individual reporters as people and as professionals. It was a different era, when naturally adversarial roles did not lead to personal animosity.

I was assistant secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs. As the chief spokesman for U.S. economic policy, I worked closely with the White House staff, including Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater and the speechwriters, on economic policy issues, including the savings and loan crisis (our mantra was “put the crooks in jail”) and the Congressional budget deal that likely cost the president his bid for re-election.

My boss, Treasury Secretary Nick Brady, worked with Budget Director Dick Darman to negotiate the budget deal. They and the president knew that breaking the president’s “No new taxes” campaign pledge would create political repercussions, but they also knew that a deal with Congressional Democrats was essential to halt the rise of budget deficits.

Having the guts to do the right thing, even at risk to his own political future, was an admirable characteristic of President Bush’s. Respecting and being willing to work with political opponents to get things done was another. Our political system could benefit from more of that spirit today.

President Bush’s most important accomplishments were in foreign policy, including presiding over the end of the Cold War and successfully expelling Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion force from Kuwait. In response to the latter, the president rallied support from the international community, including the Soviet Union, and declared the importance of a “new world order,” which he defined as “A new era—freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.”

I had the privilege of traveling with one of two presidential delegations, this one led by Secretary Brady and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, as we traveled the world gaining support for the Desert Storm operation. Our efforts and those of a similar delegation headed by Secretary of State James Baker and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury John Robson, raised $48.3 billion in foreign funds, more than the full cost of the operation.

President Bush was right: The world is better when it is united. The post-WWII international institutions – the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and many more – have been a force for peace, freedom and economic opportunity for 70 years. Those institutions are under stress today and must be preserved and strengthened.

President Bush 41 was the ultimate patriot, who represented the best of America. His kindness, civility, selflessness and commitment to the global order were admirable. It was a privilege to serve under him at a time when America represented the world’s best hope for peace and opportunity. With the right leadership, it can be that again, and the new world order that he envisioned can be brought back to life.