'America's Last Great Soldier-Statesman': Nation Bids Farewell to Former President George H.W. Bush

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

'America's Last Great Soldier-Statesman': Nation Bids Farewell to Former President George H.W. Bush


Byline: John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Mourners from across the nation gathered Wednesday morning to pay their respects and celebrate the life of former President George H.W. Bush at a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

With President Donald Trump and four living former U.S. presidents in attendance, Bush was remembered by his son former President George W. Bush who said that his father had "showed me what it means to be a president that serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country."

He also remembered his father as someone who "valued character over pedigree," who "showed us how setbacks can strengthen," and who, with his optimism, "made his children believe anything was possible."

George H.W. Bush "could tease and needle but never out of malice," his son said.

He elicited a few laughs from the crowd, particularly when he recalled his father's longtime friend, James Baker, sneaking him Grey Goose vodka and steak when Bush was in the hospital in his later years.

His father also enjoyed a good joke and had an email list where he and others would share their favorites -- including some off-color jokes, Bush said.

"To us he was close to perfect, but not totally perfect. a The man couldn't stomach vegetables, especially broccoli," Bush said, in a reference to the food famously loathed by his father. "And, by the way, he passed these genetic defects on to us."

He also referenced Bush's service as a Navy pilot, saying "one reason Dad knew how to die young was that he almost did it -- twice," Bush said, referring to his father having had a staph infection as a teenager and later being shot down in World War II.

"For Dad's part, I think those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life," Bush said.

Bush broke down at the end of his remarks as he recalled his father as the "best father," and prompted applause from the crowd after saying that he smiles "knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again."

Robin was George H.W. and Barbara Bush's daughter, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.

Bush was also remembered as "America's last great soldier-statesman" by biographer Jon Meacham, one of four people delivering eulogies.

Meacham called Bush "America's last great soldier-statesman."

"An imperfect man, he left us a more perfect union," Meacham said of the 41st president.

His remarks included some gentle ribbing of Bush for what the former president had acknowledged wasn't his strongest suit: public speaking.

"'Fluency in English,' President Bush once remarked, 'is something that I'm often not accused of,'" Meacham said, adding: "His tongue may have run amok at times, but his heart was steadfast."

Meacham also recounted Bush being shot down as a Navy pilot in 1944 and barely escaping death.

"And so we ask, as he so often did: Why him? Why was he spared?" Meacham said. "The workings of Providence are mysterious, but this much is clear: the George Herbert Walker Bush who survived that fiery fall into the waters of the Pacific made our lives, and the lives of nations, freer, better, warmer, nobler."

The second eulogy was given by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, whose last four years in office overlapped with Bush's term as president. …

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