It was a ceremony befitting the occasion at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as the nation's 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, was eulogized at his funeral service before being flown back to Texas for his burial. Every living former president was there. Stirring music and a powerful sermon from the Bush family pastor, Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., punctuated the pomp and ceremony of the occasion.
But it may be the eulogies that people will be talking about for days. Bush biographer and historian Jon Meacham spoke first, followed by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, then by Alan Simpson, former U.S. Senator from Wyoming, and finally, by President George W. Bush.
The eulogies contained moments filled with the gravity of the occasion and the measure of the man they remembered, but they also contained moments of humor and lighthearted recollections of Bush 41. They made us laugh; they made us cry; but most of all they made us appreciate a life well lived.
Here are a few excerpts of each, but I recommend you read and/or watch each of the eulogies in full.
Jon Meacham, Bush biographer and historian:
"George Herbert Walker Bush was America's last great soldier-statesman, a 20th century founding father. He governed with virtues that most closely resemble those of Washington and of Adams, of TR and of FDR, of Truman and of Eisenhower, of men who believed in causes larger than themselves."
Brian Mulroney, former Canadian prime minister:
"Many men of differing talents and skills have served as president and many more will do so as the decades unfold, bringing new strength and glory to these United States of America. And 50 or 100 years from now, as historians review the accomplishments and context of all who have served as president, I believe it will be said that, in the life of this country — which is in my judgement, the greatest democratic republic that God has ever placed on the face of this Earth — no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush."
Alan Simpson, former Senator from Wyoming
"The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend, George Bush. One of nature's noblemen. His epitaph, perhaps just a single letter, the letter "L" for loyalty. It coursed through his blood. Loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyalty to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends."
"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 honor.
"In his inaugural address the 41st President of the United States said this: 'We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account, we must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?'
"Well, Dad, we're going to remember you for exactly that and much more, and we're going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. The best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again."