Rep. Costello re­calls a ‘kindler, gen­tler’ time at Bush’s ser­vice

The Boyertown Area Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael P. Rellahan mrel­la­[email protected]­tu­ry­ Staff Writer To con­tact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

When Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush was in­au­gu­rated as the United States’s 41st pres­i­dent, Ryan Costello was a 13-year-old Owen J. Roberts School Dis­trict stu­dent just be­gin­ning to feel an in­ter­est in the world of pol­i­tics.

On that Jan­uary 1989 day in Washington, Bush gave Amer­i­cans an idea of what he wanted the coun­try he had been elected to lead to achieve.

“Amer­ica is never wholly her­self un­less she is en­gaged in high moral prin­ci­ple.,” Bush said his ad­dress. “We as a peo­ple have such a pur­pose to­day. It is to make kinder the face of the na­tion and gen­tler the face of the world.”

On Wed­nes­day as Costello, a soon-to-be re­tired mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, sat mere feet from a row of former pres­i­dents and dig­ni­taries, to hear Bush eu­lo­gized dur­ing his for­mal state fu­neral, he re­mem­bered the mes­sage that Bush had tried to con­vey.

“I kept com­ing back to his ‘kinder, gen­tler’ quote from his time in of­fice, and think­ing those words mat­ter now more than ever,” Costello, R6th, of West Goshen, wrote in an e-mail about his thoughts on Bush’s memo­rial ser­vice.

“It was one of, if not the most, re­gal events I’ve ever wit­nessed,” wrote Costello of the fu­neral, at­tended by all the na­tion’s liv­ing pres­i­dents. “I was seated about 30 feet off the the left of the pres­i­dents so it was a bit sur­real. There was a tele­vi­sion screen in front of me to ob­serve their ex­pres­sions in real time.

“I thought (his­to­rian and Bush bi­og­ra­pher) Jon Meecham’s speech was phe­nom­e­nal,” the out­go­ing con­gress­man wrote. “I found mean­ing in him call­ing (Bush) ‘the last sol­dier states­man’ of a rich tra­di­tion of Amer­i­can pres­i­dents. Also ‘a 20th cen­tury found­ing fa­ther,’ some­thing I agree with and hope we re­turn to in our pol­i­tics.

Costello wrote that the words used to de­scribe the late pres­i­dent gave him time to re­flect on his own time in of­fice.

“I al­ways viewed (him) as a good role model by which to con­duct one­self in pub­lic of­fice,” he wrote. “Friendly, fo­cused on solv­ing prob­lems, re­spect­ful of the honor and obli­ga­tion of serv­ing, some­one spe­cial and to whom the coun­try should be grate­ful for as a cit­i­zen ser­vant.”

Costello’s com­ments came as the na­tion bid goodbye to Bush with high praise, can­non salutes and gen­tle hu­mor, cel­e­brat­ing the life of the Texan who em­braced a life­time of ser­vice in Washington and was the last pres­i­dent to fight for the U.S. in wartime. Three former pres­i­dents looked on at Washington Na­tional Cathe­dral as a fourth — Ge­orge W. Bush — eu­lo­gized his dad as “the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light.”

Af­ter three days of re­mem­brance in the cap­i­tal city, the Air Force plane with Bush’s casket left for a fi­nal ser­vice in Houston and burial Thurs­day at his fam­ily plot on the pres­i­den­tial li­brary grounds at Texas A&M Univer­sity in Col­lege Sta­tion. His fi­nal rest­ing place is along­side Bar­bara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daugh­ter who died of leukemia at age 3.

His plane, which of­ten serves as Air Force One, ar­rived at Elling­ton Field out­side Houston in late af­ter­noon.

The na­tional fu­neral ser­vice at the cathe­dral was a trib­ute to a pres­i­dent, a pa­tri­arch and a faded po­lit­i­cal era that prized mil­i­tary ser­vice and pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity. It was laced with indi­rect com­par­isons to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump but was not con­sumed by them, as speak­ers fo­cused on Bush’s pub­lic life and char­ac­ter — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.

Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-pres­i­dents and their wives, sev­eral of the group sharp crit­ics of his pres­i­dency and one of them, Hil­lary Clin­ton, his 2016 Demo­cratic foe. Apart from cour­te­ous nods and some hand­shakes, there was lit­tle in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Trump and the oth­ers.

Ge­orge W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eu­logy while in­vok­ing the daugh­ter his par­ents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took com­fort in know­ing “Dad is hug­ging Robin and hold­ing Mom’s hand again.”

The fam­ily oc­cu­pied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st pres­i­dent de­feated af­ter one term, the 43rd serv­ing two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to ex­tend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­maries.

But he took a lighter tone, too, not­ing that Bush, cam­paign­ing in a crowd in a de­part­ment store, once shook hands with a man­nequin. Rather than flush­ing in em­bar­rass­ment, he sim­ply quipped, “Never know. Gotta ask.”

Meacham re­counted how co­me­dian Dana Car­vey once said the key to do­ing an im­per­son­ation of Bush was “Mr. Rogers try­ing to be John Wayne.”

None of that would be a sur­prise to Bush. Meacham had read his eu­logy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim Mc­Grath, and Bush re­sponded to it with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”

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.

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.”

Meacham praised Bush’s call to vol­un­teerism, plac­ing his “1,000 points of light” 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.”

Trump had mocked “1,000 points of light” last sum­mer at a rally, say­ing “What the hell is that? Has any­one ever fig­ured that one out? And it was put out by a Repub­li­can, wasn’t it?”

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 his suc­ces­sor, Clin­ton.

With Trump, a bit­ter NAFTA critic, 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.

Ear­lier, 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.

Trump tweeted Wed­nes­day that the day marked “a cel­e­bra­tion for a great man who has led a long and dis­tin­guished life.”

Bush’s death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the old­est liv­ing ex-pres­i­dent.

Fol­low­ing the cathe­dral ser­vice, the hearse and its 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 trans­ferred his re­mains at Joint Base An­drews for the flight home to Texas with mem­bers of his fam­ily.

Bush will lie in re­pose at St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church be­fore his burial Thurs­day.

The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this story.

To con­tact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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