Mourn­ers unite to honor ‘a great and no­ble man’

Po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies join in re­spect for master of diplo­macy

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Donovan Slack and Richard Wolf

WASH­ING­TON – Ge­orge H.W. Bush was her­alded Wed­nes­day as “Amer­ica’s last great sol­dier-states­man” be­fore about 3,000 mourn­ers who came to­gether across party lines at Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral to re­mem­ber the 41st pres­i­dent.

Ever the diplo­mat, the el­der Bush man­aged in death to bring to­gether the na­tion’s four liv­ing ex-pres­i­dents, as well as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the Repub­li­can he and son Ge­orge W. Bush re­fused to sup­port two years ago. The gath­er­ing was at times awk­ward as Trump and his 2016 op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton, ig­nored each other.

The most touch­ing mo­ment came when the younger Bush, de­liv­er­ing the last of four eu­lo­gies, choked up re­call­ing “a great and no­ble man, and the best fa­ther a son or daugh­ter could have.” As the late pres­i­dent’s three other sons and daugh­ter looked on tear­fully, the au­di­ence burst into ap­plause for the only time dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

As an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional smat­ter­ing of Repub­li­cans and Democrats, lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives lis­tened in­tently, one speaker af­ter an­other re­called qual­i­ties ar­guably in short sup­ply to­day: In­tegrity. Kind­ness. Dig­nity. Hu­mor. Em­pa­thy. Loy­alty. Generosity. Truth.

“When the his­tory books are writ­ten, they will say that Ge­orge H.W. Bush was a great pres­i­dent of the United States, a diplo­mat of un­matched skill, a com­man­der in chief of for­mi­da­ble ac­com-

plish­ment and a gen­tle­man who ex­e­cuted the du­ties of his office with dig­nity and honor,” his son said.

“He showed me what it means to be a pres­i­dent who serves with in­tegrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the cit­i­zens of our coun­try.”

Bush bi­og­ra­pher Jon Meacham told mourn­ers, “Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush was Amer­ica’s last great sol­dier-states­man, a 20th-cen­tury found­ing fa­ther. He gov­erned with virtues that most closely re­sem­ble those of Wash­ing­ton and of Adams, of T.R. and of FDR, of Tru­man and of Eisen­hower, of men who be­lieved in causes larger than them­selves.”

Meacham spoke about the courage Bush showed in World War II when, as a 20-year-old naval avi­a­tor, he parachuted from a burn­ing plane over the Pacific Ocean. He alone lived to tell the tale; the rest of his crew per­ished.

“The rest of his life was a peren­nial effort to prove him­self wor­thy of his sal­va­tion on that dis­tant morn­ing,” Meacham said. “To him, his life was no longer his own. There were al­ways more mis­sions to un­der­take, more lives to touch and more love to give.”

Those mis­sions con­tin­ued well into his se­nior years, the younger Bush re­called, in­clud­ing rac­ing his speed­boat, Fi­delity, off the Maine coast at age 85 and parachut­ing out of a plane at 90.

For­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney re­called the in­tegrity with which Bush led the na­tion through the fall of the Soviet Union and Ber­lin Wall and the Gulf War, when he as­sem­bled a coali­tion of 29 dis­parate na­tions against Iraq’s in­va­sion of Kuwait.

“Let me tell you that when Ge­orge Bush was pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica, ev­ery sin­gle head of gov­ern­ment in the world knew they were deal­ing with a gen­tle­man, a gen­uine leader, one who was dis­tin­guished, res­o­lute and brave,” Mul­roney said.

For­mer U.S. Sen. Alan Simp­son of Wyoming, known for his sense of hu­mor, re­called Bush’s love of fam­ily and friends, as well as his hu­mil­ity.

“Those who travel the high road of hu­mil­ity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., are not both­ered by heavy traffic,” Simp­son dead­panned.

Sev­eral speak­ers sin­gled out Bush’s be­lief in vol­un­teerism and his phrase “a thou­sand points of light,” which he turned into a non­profit group, the Points of Light Foun­da­tion. They noted his sign­ing of the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act.

The younger Bush said his fa­ther “strongly be­lieved that it was im­por­tant to give back to the com­mu­nity and coun­try in which one lived.”

“He rec­og­nized that serv­ing oth­ers en­riched the giver’s soul,” Bush said. “To us, his was the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light.”

For all the emo­tion, vir­tu­ally ev­ery speaker touched on Bush’s good hu­mor – even if, as Simp­son said, he could never re­mem­ber a punch line.

Meacham trig­gered laugh­ter in the crowd by re­peat­ing for­mer “Satur­day Night Live” co­me­dian Dana Car­vey’s se­cret to im­per­son­at­ing Bush – a mix­ture of “Mr. Rogers try­ing to be John Wayne.”

He re­counted Bush’s re­la­tion­ship with his wife of 73 years, Bar­bara Bush, who died this year. To her hus­band, she was sim­ply “Bar,” or “the silver fox,” or, at times, “the en­forcer.”

Af­ter the ser­vice, the cas­ket was flown to Hous­ton, where Bush will lie in re­pose at St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church. A funeral will be held there Thurs­day.


Pres­i­dents Don­ald Trump, Barack Obama, Bill Clin­ton and Jimmy Carter pay their re­spects.


A mil­i­tary honor guard car­ries Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s cas­ket from the U.S. Capi­tol on Wed­nes­day.

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