The Washington, D.C. political scene gathered to say goodbye to the 41st President of the United States.
A state funeral was held Wednesday for President George H.W. Bush at Washington National Cathedral. Bush died Friday night at his home in Houston at the age of 94.
Following the funeral, Bush’s remains were flown to Houston where the former president will lie in repose overnight at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
Another funeral service will be held in Houston on Thursday before Bush is laid to rest at his presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station next to his wife, Barbara, and daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age three.
It was extraordinary scene inside the Washington National Cathedral, where former world leaders were mingling, waiting for a ceremony remembering former President George H.W. Bush to begin.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter were seated in a front-row pew.
President Donald Trump walked in and shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who greeted him by saying “Good morning.” Trump did not shake hands with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who looked straight ahead.
George H.W. Bush’s biographer hailed the late president as a noble man who made the world better and inadvertently made it chuckle.
Historian Jon Meacham told mourners Bush’s credo was, “Tell the truth, don’t blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course.”
Meacham said Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” and Bush’s thousand points of light are “companion verses in America’s national hymn.” Meacham said Bush “made our lives and the lives of nations freer, better, warmer and nobler.”
Humor crept its way into the somber ceremony as Meacham mentioned that on the primary campaign trail in New Hampshire once, Bush grabbed the hand of a department store mannequin while asking for votes. Meacham said when Bush realized his mistake he said, “Never know. Gotta ask.”
Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said that the key to doing a perfect impersonation of the 41st president was “Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised former U.S. President George H.W. Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and was “responsible for the North American Free Trade Agreement” with Canada and Mexico.
With President Donald Trump, a sharp NAFTA critic, seated in the front row at Bush’s funeral, Mulroney said Wednesday the deal “created the largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world” and was “recently modernized and improved by new administrations.” Trump had called the trade deal unfair to the U.S. and moved to replace it.
Mulroney said Bush also deserves credit for the Americans with Disabilities Act and revising the Clean Air Act. He said, “There’s a word for this. It’s called leadership.”
Former Sen. Alan Simpson hailed his old friend George H.W. Bush as man of humility, a commodity the Wyoming Republican says is rare in the capital. Simpson said, “Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
Simpson recalled that once while he was under fire by the press, Bush told him to “wave to your pals over there in the media” as they passed photographers.
Simpson said Bush accepted a 1990 bipartisan budget deal that included a tax increase, despite his campaign pledge to not raise taxes. He said Bush said, “OK, go for it, but it will be a real punch in the gut.” Simpson says “his own party turned on him” for that, contributing to his 1992 re-election defeat.
Bush’s eldest son, former president George W. Bush, says he told his father just before he died that he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him. George W. Bush said the last words his father “would ever say on earth were, ‘I love you, too.”‘
George W. Bush extolled his father not only for his service as president but also as a role model as a loving husband, father and grandfather.
Bush choked up at the end of his eulogy before regaining his composure. He patted his father’s flag-draped coffin twice as he went back to his seat at the Washington National Cathedral. Former first lady Laura Bush wiped her eyes with a tissue as her husband sat next to her.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)