Washington: Former president George W. Bush was eulogizing his father with a perfect mix of serious and funny, remembering his bravery in combat and his dislike of broccoli, his patriotism and his lousy dancing.
Then a burst of raw emotion rose up, and a grieving son nearly doubled over as he recalled “the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have.”
Former president George H.W. Bush was remembered Wednesday as a steadfast leader in tumultuous times and a decent and humble husband, father and friend during a soaring and deeply personal state funeral at Washington National Cathedral.
“When George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman,” said former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, addressing President Trump, the four other living ex-presidents and 3,000 guests on a rare day of magisterial ceremony in the nation’s capital.
George W. Bush’s tribute was the emotional high point, and the cathedral filled with sustained applause as he passed his father’s flag-wrapped casket, resting on a bier that once held the remains of Abraham Lincoln, returned to his seat and wiped away tears.
The themes he highlighted — of service over self, cooperation over partisanship, family and country over political tribe — also suffused the tributes from the late president’s friends, who addressed a crowd of U.S. and world leaders all struggling through an era of crippling political partisanship.
Former senator Alan Simpson recalled Bush’s 1990 decision to raise taxes after his famous presidential campaign slogan, “Read my lips: No new taxes,” a move that contributed to his bitter defeat in 1992 and ushered in the rise of a more revolutionary Republican Party.
“He often said, ‘When the really tough choices come, it’s the country, not me. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans, it’s for our country that I fought for,’ ” Simpson said. “He was a man of such great humility. Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
The crowd loved that one.
“You would have wanted him on your side,” Simpson said. “He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in. The most decent and honorable man I ever met was my friend George Bush.”