President George W. Bush delivered a moving tribute to his father at his memorial service in Washington – then broke down in tears at the end of a eulogy as he spoke plainly of the 41st president as a caring father.
“Through our tears let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man,” Bush said of his father and namesake, George H.W. Bush.
He called him “the best father a son or daughter can have” – losing his composure and lowering his head amid tears after delivering the preceding speech at a clipped face.
The 43rd president described calling his father during the final minutes of his life.
“I called him. I said dad, I love you you’ve been a wonderful father. And the last words he would ever say on earth were, ‘I love you too,'” he said.
Bush, the first president since John Quincy Adams to follow his father to the nation’s highest office, also spoke of some of the values his father displayed in office.
“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 said.
“And in our grief, I just smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again,” Bush said.
He was referring to Robin Bush, the second Bush child who died at the tender age of three of leukemia in 1953.
“We’re going to miss your decency, sincerity, and your kind soul will stay with us forever.” -George W. Bush
George H.W.’s casket was the centerpiece for a once-in-a-generation funeral – at times both soul-searing and hilarious – as he journeyed toward his final resting place.
D.C.’s biggest bells tolled as pallbearers from every military service branch walked a somber cadence.
President Trump sat alongside three former Democratic presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – a tribute to the man for whom they showed varying degrees of contempt and admiration while he was alive.
Trump has been consistently critical of the late Bush for his military adventurism and regime-change policies in the Persian Gulf, which he believes sacrificed too much American blood and treasure for minimal return.
He even mocked Bush’s Thousand Points of Light volunteerism program this summer, claiming his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan provided a better, more clear vision.
But following Friday’s death of Bush at age 94, the current president treated Americans to a kinder, gentler Trump.
“We lost a president who truly was a wonderful person, a wonderful man, a great man,” he told reporters.
Crosses and candles shared a procession with a single American flag. Alleluias rang out, led by a military chorus and the church’s own choir including children too young to have known any president named Bush.
Historian Jon Meacham, author of a biography of the 41st president, said in the day’s first eulogy that the senior Bush was ‘America’s last great soldier-statesman, a 20th Century founding father.’
“He stood in the breach in the cold war against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship,” Meacham said. “He stood in the breach against tyranny and discrimination.”
In a moment that could be interpreted as a jab at President Trump, seated just yards away, he said: “On his watch, a wall fell in Berlin.”
Meacham noted, too, Bush’s signature on the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying “doors across America opened” to millions as a result.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush, a friend for decades, as a resolute and determined president whom foreign leaders respected.
“Every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader,” he said.
Prior to the funeral, in a hushed quiet that’s rare in America’s bustling Capitol complex, Bush lay in state while dignitaries and family passed underneath the towering Capitol Dome.
Bush, who passed away on Friday at age 94, was once worried that nobody would come to his funeral, his spokesman has revealed.
Jim McGrath, who served as Bush’s post-White House spokesman for a quarter century, disclosed the 41st President’s somewhat-surprising fear in a tweet on Tuesday evening.
“Briefed in 2011 about his funeral and lying in state, the 41st President asked with typical humility, “Do you think anyone will come?”’, McCarth wrote, alongside a photo showing the packed audience for a memorial for his late boss.
“Tonight, people are waiting hours to pay their respects,” he added.
An estimated 57,000 people joined them, including Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCain.