Wednesday 19 December 2018

Trump looks on as Bush hailed president of 'great humility'

Paying respects: Former US President George H W Bush’s coffin is carried past his son former President George W Bush (left), President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Paying respects: Former US President George H W Bush’s coffin is carried past his son former President George W Bush (left), President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Ben Riley-Smith

George H W Bush, the former US President, was remembered as a "noble" man of "great humility" yesterday at his state funeral, attended by much of America's political establishment.

Emotional eulogies from his son and friends remembered the 41st president as a "class act" who dedicated his life to public service and embodied political and personal courage.

George H W Bush: A WWII hero, he also served as head of the CIA. Image: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File
George H W Bush: A WWII hero, he also served as head of the CIA. Image: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File

In a service dominated by the messages of unity and patriotism, speakers praised Mr Bush's opposition to "unthinking partisanship" and awareness that "hatred corrodes".

Jon Meacham, a presidential historian, summed up Mr Bush's approach to life as "tell the truth, don't blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course".

The messages were interpreted as a call for civility in politics at a time when the country is bitterly divided along party lines.

Donald Trump, the current US President, joined three of his predecessors - Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter - and their wives on the front row of Washington DC's National Cathedral to commemorate Mr Bush's life. Mr Trump and Melania Trump, his wife, shook hands with the Obamas despite their well-documented public clashes and were seated next to each other - a sign of the bipartisanship that resonated throughout the service.

They were joined by many of the most famous faces in recent American political life from both sides of the aisle, including Mike Pence and Joe Biden, the current and former vice presidents, and members of Mr Trump's cabinet

Prince Charles represented the UK, while John Major, whose premiership overlapped with Mr Bush's time in office, was also present.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was among other foreign dignitaries paying their respects.

There was a fifth US president also present, of course - George W Bush, the son of Mr Bush, who matched his father by reaching the White House and even did one better, winning a second term.

During a heartfelt eulogy, the younger Mr Bush reflected on what his father, who died aged 94 on Friday, had taught him about holding America's top political 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," Mr Bush said.

"When the history books are written, they will say that George H W Bush was a great president of the United States, a diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander-in-chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honour."

At one point Mr Bush choked back tears as he praised "the best father a son or daughter can have", adding the elder Mr Bush now would be reunited with his wife, Barbara, and the daughter, Robin, who they lost aged just three.

There was humour, too. Mr Bush recalled how in later life his father would watch cop show reruns on television with the volume turned up, and ride his speed boat so fast his Secret Service agents struggled to keep up.

He bemoaned his father's dislike of broccoli and struggles at chipping on the golf course. And he recalled that in hospital the elder Mr Bush would take "great delight" in having a friend smuggle a bottle of Grey Goose vodka to drink with his steak.

Summing up his father's outlook, Mr Bush said: "In victory, he shared credit. When he lost, he shouldered the blame.

"He accepted that failure is a part of living a full life, but taught us never to be defined by failure. He showed us how setbacks can strengthen."

Joined by the Armed Forces Chorus and the United States Marine Orchestra, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan delivered a powerful performance.

Days beforehand, in the intimate privacy of the Bush's Texas home, Tynan had performed for the president in his final hours.

Tynan visited Bush on Friday, just hours before he passed, and sang 'Silent Night' and a song in Irish to him.

"Believe it or not, the president was mouthing the words," James A Baker III, a long-time friend and former secretary of state, told the 'New York Times'.

Last night Mr Bush's coffin was in Texas, the state that became his home.

A second funeral will be held there today, before burial alongside his wife Barbara and daughter Robin at a family plot.

Irish Independent

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