Tributes pour in for former president George HW Bush as state funeral preparations begin

Key Points
  • George H.W. Bush passed away at age 94 on Friday.
  • Tributes to the former president rolled in from both sides of the political aisle.
(L-R) Former US Presidents, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attend the Hurricane Relief concert in College Station, Texas, on October 21, 2017. 
Jim Chapin | AFP | Getty Images

George Herbert Walker Bush, a World War II veteran, former United Nations ambassador and director of the CIA who was elected as the 41st president of the United States and fathered the 43rd, died on Friday at the age of 94.

The president who oversaw both a war in the Middle East and the end of the Cold War spent decades in government service. Throughout his years in the public's eye, Bush was complimented for his temperament, graciousness and kindness — qualities cited repeatedly by figures on both sides of the aisle on Saturday, as tributes to his life and legacy poured in.

Bush outlived Ronald Reagan, the larger-than-life president and movement figure under whom he served for eight years as vice president. Reagan died in 2004 at the age of 93, and a statement from his presidential library acknowledged the "remarkable partnership" both men forged during a pivotal era in American history.

"As they reignited the U.S. economy, battled tyranny across the globe, and restored America's pride and purpose, President Reagan relied on his vice president's calm, strength, loyalty, and wisdom," said Fred Ryan, chairman of the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

"In all that the administration achieved, President Reagan once remarked, "no one has been closer to my side and has contributed more to our success than George Bush," Ryan added.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (L) and US President George H.W. Bush (R) shake hands on December 2, 1989, aboard the Soviet cruise ship Maxim Gorki before the start of their first summit meeting, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The summit is viewed as the official end of the Cold War. 
Jonathan Utz | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump designated December 5 as a national day of mourning, and plans to attend Bush's funeral despite festering animosity between the 45th president and the Bush family. The former president will lie in state in the nation's capital, and Trump will send Air Force One to Texas to transport his casket to Washington.

In a statement acknowledging Bush's death, Trump betrayed none of the hostility that has characterized his relationship with the GOP establishment, and embodied by the Bushes.

Congressional leaders announced Saturday that the late president will lie in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol building from Monday until Wednesday morning.

Below is the full text of the tributes made by former presidents and prominent political figures about Bush's passing.

'Always found a way to set the bar higher' - President Trump:

Melania and I join with a grieving Nation to mourn the loss of former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away last night.

Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service—to be, in his words, "a thousand points of light" illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world.

President Bush always found a way to set the bar higher. As a young man, he captained the Yale baseball team, and then went on to serve as the youngest aviator in the United States Navy during the Second World War. Later in life, he rose to the pinnacle of American politics as a Congressman from Texas, envoy to China, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President of eight years to President Ronald Reagan, and finally President of the United States.

With sound judgement, common sense, and unflappable leadership, President Bush guided our Nation, and the world, to a peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War. As President, he set the stage for the decades of prosperity that have followed. And through all that he accomplished, he remained humble, following the quiet call to service that gave him a clear sense of direction.

Along with his full life of service to country, we will remember President Bush for his devotion to family—especially the love of his life, Barbara. His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause. Our hearts ache with his loss, and we, with the American people, send our prayers to the entire Bush family, as we honor the life and legacy of 41.

'Patriot, humble servant' - Barack and Michelle Obama:

America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Not merely for the years he spent as our forty-first President, but for the more than 70 years he spent in devoted service to the country he loved – from a decorated Naval aviator who nearly gave his life in World War II, to Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces, with plenty of posts along the way. Ambassador to the United Nations. Director of Central Intelligence. U.S. Envoy to China. Vice President of the United States.

George H.W. Bush's life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey. Expanding America's promise to new immigrants and people with disabilities. Reducing the scourge of nuclear weapons and building a broad international coalition to expel a dictator from Kuwait. And when democratic revolutions bloomed across Eastern Europe, it was his steady, diplomatic hand that made possible an achievement once thought anything but – ending the Cold War without firing a shot.

It's a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he'd want all of us to try.

After seventy-three years of marriage, George and Barbara Bush are together again now, two points of light that never dimmed, two points of light that ignited countless others with their example – the example of a man who, even after commanding the world's mightiest military, once said "I got more of a kick out of being one of the founders of the YMCA in Midland, Texas back in 1952 than almost anything I've done."

What a testament to the qualities that make this country great. Service to others. Commitment to leaving behind something better. Sacrifice in the name of lifting this country closer to its founding ideals. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight – and all who were inspired by George and Barbara's example.

'He never stopped serving' - Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Hillary and I mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush, and give thanks for his great long life of service, love, and friendship.

I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed. From the moment I met him as a young governor invited to his home in Kennebunkport, I was struck by the kindness he showed to Chelsea, by his innate and genuine decency, and by his devotion to Barbara, his children, and their growing brood.

Few Americans have been—or will ever be—able to match President Bush's record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it; from his military service in World War II, to his work in Congress, the United Nations, China, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Vice Presidency and the Presidency, where he worked to move the post Cold War world toward greater unity, peace, and freedom.

He never stopped serving. I saw it up close, working with him on tsunami relief in Asia and here at home after Hurricane Katrina. His remarkable leadership and great heart were always on full display.

I am profoundly grateful for every minute I spent with President Bush and will always hold our friendship as one of my life's greatest gifts.

Our hearts and prayers are with George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, their families, and the entire Bush clan.

'Uniquely American spirit' - Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter:

"Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of former President George H.W. Bush. His administration was marked by grace, civility, and social conscience. Through his Points of Light initiative and other projects, he espoused a uniquely American volunteer spirit, fostering bipartisan support for citizen service and inspiring millions to embrace community volunteerism as a cherished responsibility. We again extend our heartfelt condolences to the Bush family."

'A man for all seasons' - House Speaker Paul Ryan:

"George H.W. Bush was a man for all seasons. He was great in his impact, making the world safer and freer. He was great in his character, leading with decency and integrity. A war hero and statesman, the country is inspired by his example.

"Like so many Americans, I admired President Bush not only for how he served, but for how he lived. He took pride in being a family man. The affection he showed for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was so endearing. His 73 years of marriage to Barbara marks a long and beautiful love story.

"President Bush best demonstrated the qualities he once described as 'those little touches of grace and affection and humor that make life sing.' His life was a hymn of honor.

"It was in the people's House where he began his time in public office. In our sadness today, we express our deepest condolences to the Bush family. We give thanks to God for the life of this patriot."

'A genuine partner' - Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union:

"Many of my memories are linked to him. We happened to work together in years of great changes. It was a dramatic time demanding huge responsibility from everyone. The result was the end of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race," Gorbachev said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

"I pay tribute to George Bush's contribution toward this historic achievement. He was a genuine partner."

'Completely dedicated to the country he loved' - Former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden

On behalf of the whole Biden family, Jill and I would like to offer our deepest condolences, thoughts, and prayers to George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, their children, and the entire Bush family. They have lost a father and grandfather. And this nation has lost a great leader.

When we went to Houston in 2015 to honor the doctors that cared for our deceased son Beau, President Bush insisted on coming out to see us. He wanted to personally welcome us to Houston and offer his condolences for the loss of our son.

That was George H.W. Bush—decent, kind, and welcoming. With President Bush it was seldom about himself. Always about others. His life of service was legendary.

From the moment he signed up as an 18-year-old Naval aviator a few months after Pearl Harbor and for every step after that in his lengthy career as a diplomat, Congressman, Vice President, and President – George H.W. Bush chose a path of service.

He was a man who presided over the peaceful end to the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. This was statesmanship and leadership of historic dimensions. So much could have gone wrong but instead went right because of his leadership. This is how history will rightly remember him. Every American — and arguably everybody on Earth — owes him a debt of gratitude for bring such an able steward.

Over the course of the many years we worked with together—and against each other—on the biggest issues of the day, differences of policy were always based on substance. It was never personal. It was never petty. It was always with respect for our institutions and the people they govern.

As we mourn his passing today, we remember a life totally and completely dedicated to the country he loved.

--Reuters contributed to this article.