WASHINGTON, DC — Former President George Herbert Walker Bush was honored as “America’s last great soldier-statesman” in a memorial service Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral. Hundreds of people — including family members, dignitaries, heads of state, and U.S. presidents — attended the ceremony.
The 41st president, who died Friday at the age of 94, had lain in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda since Monday. People of all ages and political persuasions silently gathered around his flag-draped casket to pay their respects.
PBS Stream: Washington National Cathedral Memorial Service
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Bush’s casket arrived at the National Cathedral around 11 a.m. President Donald Trump and First Lady Ivanka Trump attended the ceremony, along with former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Former President George W. Bush delivered the main eulogy for his father.
In his emotional eulogy, George W. Bush recalled his father as a man of principle, love and decency. He said history would remember the 41st president as a great leader and a gentleman.
“When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great president of the United States,” Bush said. “A diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander in chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.”
The 43rd president also said his father was empathetic and relatable — someone who valued public service, dignified leadership and character over family history.
“Dad could relate to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man. He valued character over pedigree. And he was no cynic,” said Bush. “He’d look for the good in each person, and he usually found it.”
He added: “Dad taught us that public service is noble and necessary. That one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values like faith and family. He 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. To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of life.”
Bush also spoke about his last conversation with his father.
“Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the phone said, ‘I think he could hear you, but he hadn’t said anything for most of the day,'” Bush said. “I said, ‘dad, I love you and you’ve been a wonderful father.’ And the last words he would ever say on Earth were, ‘I love you too.'”
For the most part, Bush maintained his composure during his emotional farewell to his father. He choked up at the end when he spoke about George H.W. Bush reuniting with his wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin. The former First Lady died on April 17, 2018 at the age of 92. Robin died of Leukemia at the age of 3.
“[He was] the best father a son or daughter can have, and in our grief, I smile knowing that dad is hugging mom and holding mom’s hand again,” Bush said.
The funeral service also included eulogies from U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and presidential biographer Jon Meacham. Meacham spoke about Bush’s military service, humor, and steadfast determination as a public servant. The biographer also drew comparisons between the 41st president and past presidents, such as George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“George Herbert Walker Bush was America’s last great soldier-statesman,” Meacham said. “A 20th century founding father. He governed with virtues that most closely resemble those of Washington and of Adams, of [Theodore Roosevelt] and of [Franklin D. Roosevelt], of Truman, and of Eisenhower — of men who believed in causes larger than themselves.”
After the ceremony, Bush’s body will be flown to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. He will later be buried in his family plot behind the Bush Library at Texas A&M alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, who died earlier this year. The plot is also home to their daughter, Robin, who died in 1953 at the age of 3.
This story will be updated.
Main Image: The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is arrives carried by a military honor guard during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Article Image: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, left, reaches out to his brother, former President George W. Bush, right, as they arrive to watch the casket of former President George H.W. Bush arrive for a State Funeral at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Article Image: Former President George W. Bush, right, cries after speaking during the State Funeral for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
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