My friends, we're here today in the
house of the Lord to say goodbye to
a man of great faith and great integrity, a truly beautiful human being;
and to honor his noble character, his life of service, and the sweet
memories he leaves for his friends, his family, and for our grateful
For more than 60 years,
George Herbert Walker Bush has been my friend,
and he's been my role model. Today, as we entrust his soul to heaven,
his name to history, and his memory to our hearts, I must begin with an
apology. Jefe, I'm about to do something you always hated, and that your
mother always told you not to do: brag about yourself. I will do this
because it must be done;
and because, as a lawyer, I see that thing beloved by all lawyers
don't brag -- "don't brag about yourself,"
you once wrote.
point out your virtues, your good points."1
Well, today, Mr. President, I am that
"other," with the special privilege
and joy of sharing your good points.
As we have heard and as we know,
George Bush was a charter member of the
Greatest Generation. As we
gather here to salute him, his incredible service to our nation and the
world are already etched in the marble of time.
After becoming the youngest naval aviator, he served in increasingly
responsible positions on behalf of his country: Congressman, Ambassador
to China, and to the United Nations. Director of the CIA, and Vice
Then, as history will faithfully record, he became one of our
nation's finest Presidents; and beyond any doubt, our nation's very best
For millions and millions across the globe, the world became a better
place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years.
He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite
and he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the
hard granite of history. They expressed his moral character, and they
reflected his decency, his boundless kindness and consideration of
others, his determination always to do the right thing, and always to do
that to the very best of his ability.
They testify to a life nobly
He possessed the classic virtues of our civilization and of his
faith -- the same virtues that express what is really best about this
country. These same ideals were known to and
they were shared by our Founding
Fathers. George Bush was
temperate in thought, in word, and in deed. He considered his choices
and then he chose wisely.
The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, less than one year into his
presidency. It was a remarkable triumph for American foreign policy. As
joyous East and West Germans danced on the remains of that
George Bush could have joined them metaphorically and claimed victory
for the West, for America, and frankly, for himself.
But he did not. He knew better. He understood that humility toward -- and
not humiliation of -- a fallen adversary was the very best path to peace
and reconciliation; and so he was able to unify Germany as a member of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, notwithstanding the initial
reservations of France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
Thus, the Cold War ended, not with a bang but with the sound of a
halyard rattling through a pulley over the Kremlin on a cool night in
December 1991, as the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered for the very
Need we ask about George Bush's courage during World War II?
He risked his life in defense of something greater than himself.
later, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and began to
brutalize Kuwaitis, George Bush never wavered. "This will not stand,"
and he got the rest of the world to join
him in reversing that aggression.
Yes, he had the courage of a warrior.
But when the time came for
prudence, he always maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker. He
ended the wars in Central America; he signed two nuclear arms reduction
treaties; and he brought Israel and all of its Arab neighbors together
face-to-face for the first time
to talk peace.
His deeds for his fellow man always spoke for him.
“Give someone else a
hand," he would say -- and he did.
“When a friend is hurting, show that
you care," he would say -- and he did.
“Be kind to people," he would say -- and he was.
To the parents of a young son who lost -- of a young son lost to cancer,
he wrote, "I hope you will live the rest of your lives with only happy
memories of that wonderful son who is now safely tucked in,
arms around him." His wish for a "kinder...gentler
nation"3 was not a
cynical political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul.
After they left the White House, George and Barbara Bush continued to
display their compassion for others. Their dedication to the
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and countless
other charities, is a model for all former first families past, present,
To these virtues, we can add one more source of his character: his
family. As a friend once put it, George Bush believed that family is a
source of both personal strength and the values one needs to face life.
And of course, history has shown that few families have accomplished as much as his
Barbara wrote the book on how to be a great First Lady. His legacy lives
on with his children, who have contributed so very much to making our
nation great. And who knows what the future will bring for his
grandchildren and their children.
I've always been proud that George Bush used to describe our
relationship as one of "big brother and little brother." He used to say
that one of the things he liked best about me was that I would always
tell him what I thought, even when I knew he didn't want to hear it.
Then we would have a spirited discussion about that issue.
But he had a very effective way of letting me know when the discussion
was over. He would look at me and he'd say, "Baker, if you're so smart, why
am I President and you're not?"
He was -- He was a leader, and he knew it. My hope is that in remembering the life
of George Herbert Walker Bush, and in honoring his accomplishments, we
will see that we are really praising what is best about our nation -- the
nation he dearly loved and whose values he embodied.
There is more to say than time permits, and anyway, when measured
against the eloquence of George Bush's character and life, our words are
very inadequate. And so I conclude these remarks with his words, written
some years ago to his old tennis buddy.
“We have known each other a long time," he wrote to me.
We have shared
joy and sadness. and time has indeed gone swiftly by. Now it races on
even faster, and that makes me treasure even more this line of William
Butler Yates about where man's glory begins and ends, namely with
friends.4 My glory is I have you as such a friend.
To which I reply on behalf of his friends here today, across America,
and throughout the world: We rejoice, Mr. President, that you are safely
tucked in now and through the ages, with God's loving arms around you.
Because our glory, George, was to have had you as our President and as
such a friend.