Politics

5 of the most powerful quotes from George H.W. Bush’s funeral

Friends, colleagues, and family members eulogized former president George H.W. Bush on Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Former president George W. Bush, former senator Alan Simpson, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, and presidential historian Jon Meacham spoke at the services, describing the 41st United States president as kind, loyal, and energetic.

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Here’s a look at some of the most powerful quotes and anecdotes from Bush’s funeral services.

‘Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again’

Former president George W. Bush wiped tears from his eyes after delivering a eulogy for his father.
Alex Brandon/Getty Images
Former president George W. Bush wiped tears from his eyes after delivering a eulogy for his father.

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In a moving moment, George W. Bush fought back tears at the conclusion of his eulogy as he recalled his father as loving, giving, and a mentor.

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“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 can have,” Bush said, choking up and looking down. “And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin, and holding Mom’s hand again.”

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Bush could be seen wiping away tears as he took his seat in the front pew.

In his last sentence, the 43rd president was referring to Robin Bush, his sister who died at 3 years old of leukemia.

‘The last words he would ever say on Earth’

In a particularly emotional part of his eulogy, Bush recalled the last conversation he had with his father.

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“Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him,” Bush said. “I said, ‘Dad, I love you, and you’ve been a wonderful father.’ And the last words he would ever say on Earth were, ‘I love you, too.’ ”

RELATED: Read George W. Bush’s full eulogy for his dad

Bush also said that his dad almost died twice when he was young, but that God had answered his prayers to stay alive: “It turned out he had other plans for George H.W. Bush.”

Bush also described his dad as someone who served in the Oval Office with dignity and integrity, and said that even in defeat, his father was able to teach his children lessons.

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

‘Full throttle, then sleep’

Bush worked more lighthearted anecdotes into his eulogy. For example, as he was recalling his father’s personality and work ethic, Bush noted that his dad played golf at a “legendary pace.”

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Bush said after thinking about it, he decided that his father probably sped through the leisure activity because he was anxious to move on to the next part of his day.

“He was born with just two settings: Full throttle, then sleep,” Bush said, as those in attendance laughed.

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Bush also recalled his father’s penchant for speeding in his boat in Maine, parachuting at age 90, and reveling in a friend recently sneaking certain prohibited items into a hospital room.

“In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal, James A. Baker, smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room,” Bush said. “Apparently it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton’s.”

He also listed some of his father’s more public faults: “The man couldn’t stomach vegetables. Especially broccoli,” he quipped.

‘Never know, gotta ask’

Presidential biographer Jon Meacham spoke during the funeral for George H.W. Bush.
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
Presidential biographer Jon Meacham spoke during the funeral for George H.W. Bush.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham recalled some of the more lighthearted quotes and stories of Bush, including the time that Bush — while asking for votes on the campaign trail in New Hampshire — shook the hand of a mannequin.

When Bush realized his mistake, he quipped, “Never know, gotta ask,” Meacham said.

The biographer also recounted how “Saturday Night Live” comedian Dana Carvey once said that the key to doing a perfect impersonation of the 41st president was ‘‘Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.’’

The former president also often had tongue-twisted moments and uttered funny one-liners, and Meacham recalled how late in his presidency, Bush’s tongue ran amok when he said: ‘‘We are enjoying sluggish times, but we’re not enjoying them very much.’’

‘Those who take the high road of humility’

Former senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, spoke about George H.W. Bush.
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images
Former senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, spoke about George H.W. Bush.

Former senator Alan Simpson had a particularly poignant quote — and one that was resonating nationwide amid the fraught politics and partisanship of late — as he spoke about Bush’s decision to sign a bipartisan budget deal in 1990 that included tax increases, which essentially helped seal his fate as a one-term president.

Simpson said Bush would often say, “When the really tough choices come . . . it’s not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s for our country that I fought for.”

“And he was a man of such great humility. Those who take the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic,” Simpson said, garnering laughter and applause from the audience — including the presidents’ club in the front pew.

Simpson also said his friend never lost his sense of humor.

‘‘He had a very serious flaw known by all close to him: He loved a good joke — the richer the better,’’ Simpson said. ‘‘And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punchline. And I mean never.’’

‘‘Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life,’’ Simpson continued. ‘‘He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.’’

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.