Presidential farewell for Bush
Son George W. Bush, others eulogize 41st U.S. chief executive.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend Wednesday’s state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at Washington National Cathedral in a pew with three ex-presidents and ex-first ladies: Barack and Michelle Obama; Bill and Hillary Clinton; and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter.
— Mourners WASHINGTON from across the nation gathered Wednesday morning to pay their respects and celebrate the life of former President George H.W. Bush at a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.
As President Donald Trump and three former presidents listened, a fourth — George W. Bush — eulogized his dad, who died Friday at the age of 94.
“To us,” the son said of the father, “his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost when she was 3 and his mother, Barbara, who died in April. He took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush’s life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses, and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Bush’s death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the oldest living ex-president.
For all the somber tributes to the late president’s public service and strength of character, laughter filled the cathedral time after time. The late president’s eulogists — son included — noted Bush’s tendency to tangle his words and show his goofy side.
He was the “last great-soldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times. But he also said that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, “Never know. Gotta ask.”
He recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was “Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”
George W. Bush said “the man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli,” and called that a defect passed down to his children.
Meacham also praised Bush’s call to volunteerism — his “1,000 points of light” — placing it alongside Abraham Lincoln’s call to honor “the better angels of our nature” in the American rhetorical canon. Meacham called those lines “companion verses in America’s national hymn.”
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by Clinton, his successor.
With Trump, a strong critic of the trade deal, seated in the front row, Mulroney hailed the “largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world.” The three countries have agreed on a revised trade agreement pushed by Trump.
Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, regaled the congregation with stories from his years as Bush’s friend in Washington. More seriously, he recalled that when he went through a rough patch in the political game, Bush conspicuously stood by him against the advice of aides. “You would have wanted him on your side,” he said.
Simpson said Bush “loved a good joke — the richer the better. And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punchline. And I mean never.”
George W. Bush turned the humor back on the acerbic ex-senator, saying of the late president: “He placed great value on a good joke, so he chose Simpson to speak.”
On Wednesday morning, a military band played “Hail to the Chief ” as Bush’s casket was carried down the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he had lain in state. Family members looked on as servicemen fired off a cannon salute.
His hearse was then driven in a motorcade to the cathedral ceremony, slowing in front of the White House. Bush’s route was lined with people much of the way, bundled in winter hats and taking photos.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked “a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.” Trump and his wife, Melania, took their seats after the others at Wednesday’s funeral, briefly greeting the Obamas seated next to them.
After three days of events in Washington, Bush’s body was headed home to Texas for more ceremony and then burial today. After the cathedral service, the hearse and a long motorcade drove to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial, a nod to the late president’s service as a World War II Navy pilot, then arrived at Joint Base Andrews.
Cannon roared again, “Hail to the Chief ” was played for Bush a final time in the capital, and the plane with his casket and Bush family members aboard took off for Houston.
Former President George W. Bush views his father’s casket after the elder Bush’s state funeral Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral.