Former President George W. Bush remembered Sen. John McCain as a moral leader whose “epic life” was a model of American values, he said Saturday at a service honoring McCain at Washington National Cathedral.
Watch Bush’s full eulogy for Sen. John McCain in the player above.
“The thing about John’s life was the amazing sweep of it, from a tiny prison cell in Vietnam to the floor of the United States Senate, from troublemaking plebe to presidential candidate. Wherever John passed throughout the world, people immediately knew there was a leader in their midst. In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country,” he said.
Bush recalled that the two of them had sparred in the past, referring to “our hard fought political history.”
“Back in the day, he could frustrate me,” Bush said, prompting some laughs from attendees and a smile from Cindy McCain. “And I know he’d say the same thing about me. But he also made me better.” In the years to come, they would talk of their disagreements “like football players remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away,” he said.
Bush remembered McCain as “a man with a code. He lived by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country. He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen. He was honest no matter whom it offended.”
His strong moral compass echoed around the world to dissidents and prisoners of oppressive governments who knew he was on their side, Bush said. “He loved freedom with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators.”
It was a set of values that should serve as a reminder, he said: “If we’re ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: ‘We’re better than this. America is better than this.’”