George H.W. Bush courageous and principled, Mulroney says at state funeral

Former President George H.W. Bush's casket left the U.S. Capitol for the short trip to a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday.

Family, friends, congressional leaders and others gathered with military brass on the steps of the Capitol for the send-off Wednesday as cannons echoed a salute and a military band played Hail to the Chief.

Bush's flag-draped coffin was carried to a waiting hearse for the procession to the cathedral. His son former president George W. Bush put his hand over his heart at the plaza.

The 41st president had been lying in state since late Monday in the Capitol rotunda, an honour reserved for few. Hundreds of visitors, including many former White House officials, arrived to pay tribute. Bush died last week in Houston at age 94.

The ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, the nexus of state funerals, caps three days of remembrance by dignitaries and ordinary citizens as they honour the Republican president who oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War, only to lose re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

The current president and past presidents and their wives sat in the front row at the service. From left: Donald and Melania Trump, Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. In the back row, former Bush administration figures Andrew Card and Dick Cheney and their wives. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The four living ex-presidents came — among them, George W. Bush — and current President Donald Trump is attending but is not scheduled to speak.

Trump is not among the eulogists, marking the first time since Lyndon Johnson's death in 1973 that a sitting president has not been tapped to eulogize a late president.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was "looking forward to being with the Bush family," calling the day "a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life." Trump and his wife took their seats after the others, briefly greeting the Obamas seated next to them.

Trump had earlier ordered the federal government closed for a national day of mourning.

Mulroney praises Bush's courage, principles

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney eulogized Bush, remembering his diplomacy during an era of the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the reunification of Germany.

"As historians review the accomplishments and context of all who have served as president, I believe it will said in the life of this country, the United States … that no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honourable than George Herbert Walker Bush," said Mulroney.

Former Canadian PM remembers Bush's friendship, leadership during tumultuous times 11:54

Mulroney's time as prime minister encompassed George H.W. Bush's entire term as president. The pair developed a collegial bond and tackled issues related to trade and the environment, while Bush thought so highly of Mulroney's rapport for European and Russian leaders that he touted the Canadian for consideration as the next UN secretary general, though Mulroney opted to concentrate on domestic affairs.

The Canadian delegation also included Liberal MP Scott Brison and David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the U.S.

Sense of duty

Historian Jon Meacham began the series of eulogies, recounting Bush's harrowing time as a naval pilot during the Second World War.

Bush flew 58 missions over the Pacific Ocean, including one in which his plane was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. He was rescued by a passing U.S. submarine and later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

Meacham said Bush lived the rest of his life with that same sense of duty.

"There were always more missions to undertake, more lives to touch and more love to give, and what a headlong race he made of it all."

The casket with the remains of former president George H.W. Bush departs the Capitol building before the service Wednesday in Washington. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson praised Bush's bipartisan spirit in his eulogy.

"But he often said when the really tough choices come, it's the country, not me," said Simpson. "It's not about Democrats or Republicans, it's for our country that I have fought for."

Each of the spoken tributes highlighted Bush's sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself.

Meacham said Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, "Never know. Gotta ask."

George W. Bush, the 43rd president, was giving the final eulogy.

Dad always believed that one day he would hug his precious Robin again.– George W. Bush

The five most recent U.S. vice-presidents were in attendance Wednesday: current VP Mike Pence, along with Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Dan Quayle, who served as VP in George H.W. Bush's administration.

Foreign leaders past and present seen included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, King Abdullah II of Jordan and John Major, former British prime minister.

The Trump administration was heavily represented, with Chief of Staff John Kelly, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as family members and advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

After the national funeral service at the cathedral Wednesday, Bush's body will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter with leukemia who died in 1953 at age three.

"We only learned later that dad, a man of quiet faith, prayed for her daily," said Bush in his eulogy. "Dad always believed that one day he would hug his precious Robin again."

Former president George W. Bush, second from right, stands with wife Laura Bush, brother Neil Bush and former sister-in-law Sharon Bush as the flag-draped casket of his father is carried by a joint services military honour guard from the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Bush is survived by four sons and a daughter, in addition to several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dignitaries and members of the public have come forward since Bush's death last week to honour the Texan whose service to his country extended three-quarters of a century, from the Second World War through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster. 

On Tuesday, soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the Capitol Rotunda to view Bush's casket and honour a president whose legacy included world war military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled. Former senator Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and former rival.

Dole's poignant salute

Members of the public who never voted for the man waited in the same long lines as the rest, attesting that Bush possessed the dignity and grace that deserved to be remembered by their presence on a cold overcast day in the capital.

Bush and Dole were fellow Second World War veterans, Republican Party leaders, fierce rivals for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination won by Bush and skilled negotiators. Dole, an army veteran hit by German machine-gun fire in Italy, has gone through life with a disabled right arm. Bush, a navy pilot, survived a bailout from his stricken aircraft over the Pacific and an earlier crash landing.

Former senator Bob Dole salutes the flag-draped casket containing the remains of former president George H.W. Bush on Tuesday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

On Tuesday, the 95-year-old Dole was helped out of his wheelchair by an aide, slowly steadied himself and saluted Bush with his left hand, his chin quivering.

Jimmy Carter, younger than Bush by four months, is now the oldest of the four living former presidents.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News