With the death of Bob Hope, the United States has lost one of its greatest entertainers. But Mr. Hope, who died July 27th at the age of one-hundred, did much more than simply entertain.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, Bob Hope was a star of vaudeville, radio, television and film. He was a friend of every U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt. He received numerous honors, from college honorary degrees to the U.S. Medal of Freedom and an honorary knighthood from Great Britain, the country of his birth. But Bob Hope will be most remembered by millions of U.S. servicemen and women for his service to them.
For over fifty years, he traveled countless miles to U.S. military camps around the world during the Christmas holidays, entertaining servicemen and women in jungles, and deserts and field hospitals and on aircraft carriers, from World War II in the 1940s to Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. When asked why he did it, he had a simple answer:
"What it means for those kids. You know, when you take it into the jungle for those kids. They really get a belt out of it. And it's a hell of a moment of morale. . . .Merry Christmas and God bless you.
One man who, as a young serviceman, watched Mr. Hope entertain the troops in Vietnam in 1968 was Secretary of State Colin Powell. "There was no one," said Mr. Powell, "who served his nation more faithfully and with greater dedication in both war and peace." And, as President George W. Bush said, Bob Hope was a great American citizen:
"Bob Hope made us laugh, and he lifted our spirits. He served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations. We extend our prayers to his family, and we mourn the loss of a good man."
Another of Bob Hope's biggest fans, President Ronald Reagan, summed it up when presenting Mr. Hope with one of his many honors in 1988:
"It's my pleasure now to present this award to a man whose name is a description of his life. And where there is life, there's Hope."
Bob Hope's life is over, but for those millions of people that he touched -- his memory will endure.