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Home / US / John McCain's funeral: Eulogies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama were historic

John McCain's funeral: Eulogies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama were historic



In Washington, high-profile funerals often fall on vice presidents.

"They die, I will fly" was how George H.W. Bush summed up the frequent funeral component of his portfolio when he was Ronald Reagan's number two in the 1980s. (Bush attributed the quote to James A. Baker.)

But sometimes the adoption of a sublime number requires words of the highest political voice in the country, a seated or former president.

President Trump did not attend the Saturday memorial service for Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) To attend the Washington National Cathedral. Trump also did not talk about a funeral since joining the White House, said Gerhard Peters, political science professor and guardian of the US Presidency project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a comprehensive database of President's speeches, briefings, fireside chats, Toasts and other public statements of the Hoover government.

But McCain was praised by two former Inmates of the Oval Office: Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

The couple remembered McCain as a man of ideals and beliefs ̵

1; a man "who had been in and out of hell" and still maintained his optimism.

"He made us better presidents – just as he made the Senate better," Obama said in his eulogy. "The way he made the country better."

While the two former presidents were mostly solemn, they made some jokes.

"I have a reputation for staying cool, John, not so much," Obama said with an echo of laughter from the cathedral.

The appearance of two presidents at the invitation of a man who was both defeated for the highest office was historic. Something similar happened in 2004, when Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush spoke at Ronald Reagan's funeral.


Former President George H.W. Bush, on the right, passes his tribute to Ronald Reagan in front of the coffin of Washington National Cathedral in 2004.

The modern era of President's funeral begins with Lyndon Johnson's comments on a monument to the American poet Carl Sandburg in the year 1967.

"He is part of the American Earth," Johnson said in the service in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

There may not be a premodern era. Prior to Johnson, the public record does not show a presidential speech dating back to the time the White House recorded public documents in 1929.

"Before, presidential papers were private property," said Peters. "But it's clear that it was not common for presidents to hold praises at funerals."

Johnson spoke at a funeral as president, but the tempo began to take hold after him.

President Richard M. Nixon went to the Capitol to praise his former boss, former President Dwight Eisenhower, at his monument in 1969. ("He was confused about the hate he saw in our time.") Nixon would speak at three more funerals: Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), Civil rights activist Whitney Young and longtime FBI czar J. Edgar Hoover. ("He was the peace officer without peers.")

President Jimmy Carter traveled to Minnesota to praise Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) To Arlington National Cemetery for a memorial to soldiers killed in Iran and a black DC Church honors union leaders and civil rights Icon A. Philip Randolph. ("He was a man of dignity, he was a man of obstinacy, he was a man of eloquence, and he was a man of gentleness and constant idealism.")


President Jimmy Carter sings with Bayard Rustin and Bishop Henry Murph at a Washington civil rights service for A. Phillip Randolph in 1979. (Mark Wilson / AP)

Reagan also spoke at three memorial services, perhaps most notably the emotional commemoration of the crew of the Unfortunate Space Shuttle Challenger in Houston Johnson Space Center in 1986. To give consolation not only to the families of the killed astronauts, but also to a shaken nation, pioneer Reagan used the concept of the president as "Comforter Chief."

He remembered them each by name and nature: "We remember Christa McAuliffe, who captured the imagination of the whole nation and inspired us with her courage, her unquiet spirit of discovery, a teacher, not just her students, but for a whole people. "

And he honored them together as role models of our ongoing national efforts:" We have learned again that this America called Abraham Lincoln the last hope of man. The earth was built on heroism and noble sacrifices. "

In all, the president's file lists 55 mourning addresses of American chiefs, mostly thanks to a talkative commander-in-chief. Almost half of the oratorios came from President Bill Clinton, who passed 26 funerals between 1994 and 2001 for a two-year argument.

Clinton held eulogy for Congressman (William Fulbright, Les Aspin, Barbara Jordan, among others) for Justice William Brennan, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, civil rights activists, old campaigners compatriots and friends of youth.

On Friday, the former president spoke at Aretha Franklin's funeral in the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, praising the Queen of the Soul as "the voice of a generation, perhaps the voice of the century." Clinton also described her as "caring for broken people … caring for people who were not as successful as she was."

Presidents George W. Bush and Obama were not Clinton's furious burial guards, but both came to Washington National Cathedral on Saturday for McCain's Memorial with much practice.

Bush delivered six eulogies He was in the White House, including Coretta Scott King, former President Gerald Ford and former press spokesman Tony Snow. (His father, George HW Bush, apparently did not deliver anyone when he was commander-in-chief, and made him and Gerald Ford the only presidents since Johnson to stay out of this niche of speech.)

The younger Bush, like Reagan , spoke at the Memorial for a Lost Shuttle Crew after Columbia was destroyed after reentering Earth's atmosphere. Then he did the same for Reagan himself: "When the sun goes down off the coast of California tonight and we let our 40th President rest, a great American story will close."

Obama spoke at a dozen funerals, starting with Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) And journalist Walter Cronkite, who were just a week apart in 2009. The series of Senate giants continued with Robert C. Byrd (DW.Va.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). Obama traveled to Jerusalem after the death of former President Nelson Mandela to honor former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In 2015, it was personal for the White House when Obama went to Wilmington, Del., To attend the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, who died of cancer at age 46.

"You know, anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality TV age, especially in today's politics," said Obama. "If you are loud enough or controversial enough, you may get some attention, but to make that name mean something, to associate it with dignity and integrity, is rare."

Read more Retropolis: [19659033] John McCain could not escape the train of the Naval Academy. Now he is buried there.

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