© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Former President George W. Bush Delivers Emotional Eulogy For His Father

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President George H.W. Bush was remembered today as a leader who steered the world through the end of the Cold War, who sought to lead through humility and who was to his core a family man. The state funeral for the 41st president of the United States was attended by President Trump and every living former president. George W. Bush delivered a eulogy. Here's NPR's Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The hearse carrying the former president left the U.S. Capitol building where he's been lying in state, rolled slowly past the front of the White House before arriving at the National Cathedral where it was greeted with fanfare.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNITED STATES MARINE BAND PERFORMANCE OF JAMES SANDERSON'S "HAIL TO THE CHIEF")

GONYEA: Inside, in the front pew sat President Trump and the first lady - next to them, Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. President George W. Bush greeted each of them as he and the rest of the Bush family took their seats across the aisle. The tributes followed, the first from George H.W. Bush's biographer, historian Jon Meacham.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JON MEACHAM: The story was almost over even before it had fully begun.

GONYEA: He was talking about the moment during World War II when Bush, a 20-year-old Navy pilot, was shot down on a bombing run. Two crew members were killed. Bush, clinging to a raft in the Pacific, was rescued. Bush often questioned why he was chosen to survive. Meacham described a man committed to public service, to giving something back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEACHAM: His life code, as he said, was tell the truth; don't blame people; be strong; do your best.

GONYEA: Reverend Russell Levenson from the church Bush attended in his later years in Houston spoke of Bush's record as president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUSSELL LEVENSON: I have a political cartoon of the 41st president with caricatured big ears. He's sitting at his desk. He's looking at his watch. And he's saying to himself, communism is dead; the wall was down; apartheid is falling; Mandela is free; the Sandinistas are ousted; Germany is reuniting; the Cold War is over; I've returned my calls, and, heck, it's not even lunchtime.

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Also speaking - former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who's now 87 and a lifelong friend, who spoke of a man of uncommon humility.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALAN SIMPSON: Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Simpson then followed with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMPSON: He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew. Hatred corrodes the container it's carried in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE W. BUSH: I once heard it said of man that the idea is to die young as late as possible.

GONYEA: The 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, described how his father would drive his speedboat at full throttle at age 85, scaring his Secret Service agents - and this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: 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.

GONYEA: He recalled his father's most difficult personal moments - the loss of a young daughter, Robin, to leukemia when she was just 3 and, this year, the death of his wife Barbara. He closed with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: 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, I just smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: The casket was carried outside into the December chill. Once there, the Marine Band saluted the president one last time with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNITED STATES MARINE BAND PERFORMANCE OF JAMES SANDERSON'S "HAIL TO THE CHIEF")

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNITED STATES MARINE BAND PERFORMANCE OF JAMES SANDERSON'S "HAIL TO THE CHIEF") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.