(FASTNEWS|COLOMBO) – George HW Bush was celebrated with high praise and loving humour Wednesday as the nation bade farewell to the man who was America’s 41st president and the last to fight for the US in wartime. Three former presidents looked on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth — George W Bush — eulogized his dad.
“To us,” the son said of the father, “his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.” George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost when she was 3 and his mother, Barbara, who died in April. He took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.” For all the somber tributes to the late president’s public service and strength of character, laughter filled the cathedral time after time.
The late president’s eulogists — son included — noted Bush’s tendency to tangle his words and show his goofy side. He was “the last great-soldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times. But he also said that 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.” After the service, the hearse and a long procession of cars headed for Joint Base Andrews and the flight to Texas — but first down to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial .
The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush’s life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, President Donald Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked “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. On Tuesday, soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the Capitol Rotunda to view Bush’s casket and honor a president whose legacy included World War military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled. Former Sen. Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and one-time rival.
Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days. As at notable moments in his life, Bush brought together Republicans and Democrats in his death, and not only the VIPs.
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