The nation’s most powerful leaders filed into the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Wednesday for the state funeral of late President George H.W. Bush.
All living presidents and spouses made the trip and sat in the front row for a series of speeches regaling Bush’s life and legacy. There were many laughs and emotional moments in the program — but no one better canonized the life and times of the late Bush than renown historian Jon Meacham.
Meacham, who knew Bush’s strengths and weaknesses well, penned a biography about the former president and noted Bush’s shortcomings in his speech.
“An imperfect man, he left us a more perfect union,” Meacham said. “It must be said that for a keenly intelligent statesman of stirring, almost unparalleled private eloquence, public speaking was not exactly a strong suit.”
Meacham continued, “‘Fluency in English,’ President Bush once remarked, ‘Is something that I’m often not accused of.'”
The line drew belly laughs from the audience, including George W. Bush in the front row.
“Looking ahead to the ’88 election,” Meacham continued, “[Bush] observed inarguably, ‘It’s no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or the other.’ And late in his presidency, he allowed that we are ‘Enjoying sluggish times, but we are not enjoying them very much.'”
The audience roared.
“His tongue may have run amuck at moments, but his heart was steadfast. His life code, as he said, was: tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course. And that was and is the most American of creeds,” Meacham concluded.
All five living presidents were seated together Wednesday at the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush. (RELATED: Here’s A Look Back At George H.W. Bush’s Life In Pictures)
H.W.’s casket left the Capitol rotunda earlier Wednesday after lying in state for two days and will board Air Force One bound for Texas after the National Cathedral ceremony.