TEMPO.CO, Washington - Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was hailed at his state funeral on Wednesday, Dec. 5, as a warrior-statesman of uncommon personal kindness who went from being a hero of American conflicts to representing a bygone era of civility in politics.
Amid an unusual bipartisan spirit at the service at Washington's National Cathedral, both Republican and Democratic politicians honored a president who called for a "kinder, gentler" nation.
Later on Wednesday, a plane carrying the body of Bush, who died last week in Texas aged 94, landed in Houston where there will be a funeral service on Thursday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. Afterward, he will be laid to rest at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.
There will be a public viewing on Wednesday night at the Houston church where Bush and his late wife, Barbara Bush, were longtime worshippers.
Bush, the 41st U.S. president, occupied the White House from 1989 to 1993, navigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and expelling former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces from oil-rich Kuwait.
“George H.W. Bush was America's last great soldier-statesman,” Jon Meacham, a presidential biographer, said in a eulogy. "He stood in the breach in the Cold War against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship," he said.
At a ceremony full of pomp but also peppered with laughter, the capital's current political feuds were briefly set aside in honor of the late president, a naval aviator who survived being shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean in World War Two, and a former head of the CIA during the Cold War.
Still, there were reminders of lingering tensions.
President Donald Trump shook hands with his predecessor, Barack Obama, and former first lady Michelle Obama. But he did not greet the other two former Democratic presidents, Bill ClintonandJimmy Carter, sharing the front pew, or their spouses, including Hillary Clinton, Trump's 2016 election opponent.
A patrician figure, Bush was voted out of office in part for failing to connect with ordinary Americans during an economic recession.
But he has been remembered as representing an earlier era of civility in American politics, an image burnished in recent years by the divisiveness and anger in the United States that accompanied the rise of Trump.
Former President George W. Bush said his father "valued character over pedigree, and he was no cynic. He'd look for the good in each person, and he usually found it."
“The best father a son or daughter could ever have,” the former president said in his eulogy, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke near his father's flag-draped coffin.