President George H. W. Bush

Remarks of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rotunda, U.S. Capitol

“Thirty years ago, on the West Front of this Capitol, George Herbert Walker Bush addressed the nation for the first time as our president. He said: ‘We meet on democracy's front porch. A good place to talk as neighbors and as friends.’ The words of a humble servant who loved his fellow citizens. And of a principled leader who knew America not only guards our own future, but also safeguards democracy for the world.

“Today, this hero has returned to the Capitol a final time. Not on the front porch of our democracy, this time -- but here, in its hallowed cathedral. Beneath paintings that tell the story of our land and our liberty. And flanked by statues of his fellow champions whom he joined in making that story possible.

“George Bush was just a teenager when he volunteered for military service and became the Navy’s youngest aviator. He was only 20 on that September day in 1944 when his plane was hit on a bombing run. But through the fire and smoke, George Bush stayed steady at the controls. Only once he accomplished his mission did he parachute out over the Pacific.

“A steady hand, staying the course. That’s what George Bush gave us for decades. Decorated aviator. Congressman. Ambassador to the United Nations. Envoy to China. CIA Director. Eight years as Vice President and four as Commander-in-Chief. Through the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s collapse, he kept us on course. When the rule of law needed defending in the Persian Gulf, he kept us on course.

“With his even temperament and hard-won expertise, George Herbert Walker Bush steered this country as straight as he steered that airplane. He kept us flying high and challenged us to fly higher still. And he did it with modesty and kindness that would have been surprising in someone one-tenth as tough and as accomplished as he was.

“The patriot who lies before us was blessed with many gifts. But there was no doubt which he prized most of all. A great love story began at that Christmas dance where George Bush met Barbara Pierce. And the grace and virtue they taught their children have enriched this nation through a family of leaders.

“Today, the nation stands with that family – with our 43rd president, with Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Doro – and all the Bush grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We stand with you in mourning, but also in gratitude. Gratitude for lives well lived, and duties thoroughly fulfilled. Gratitude that God gave this country George and Barbara Bush. And that they may now be reunited in the light of His Grace.”

Related Issues: Tributes