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Nation remembers Barbara Bush in a celebration of her life

Hundreds of people gathered Saturday in Houston to remember former first lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at the age of 92. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave the eulogy for his mother in a service that celebrated her compassion, grace and dedication to literacy. Mary Kate Cary, former speechwriter for former President George H.W. Bush, joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Good evening and thank you for joining us. Former presidents and first ladies joined mourners at the funeral of former First Lady Barbara Bush today in Houston, Texas. Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92.

    This morning, her husband of 73 years, former President George H.W Bush arrived in a wheelchair attended to by their son, former President George W. Bush…

    Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and former first ladies Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton attended the services at Saint Martin's Episcopal Church along with current First Lady Melania Trump.

    According to a White House statement President Trump did not attend "to avoid disruptions due to added security."

    But the President did tweet a photo of the former First Lady's White House portrait, saying, "today, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family."

    Mrs. Bush's twin granddaughter's participated in the service, and she chose her close friend Susan Baker, historian Jon Meacham and her son Jeb to deliver the eulogies. The former Florida governor remembered his mother as strict but with a sense of humor.

  • JEB BUSH:

    Mom got us through difficult times with consistent, take it to the bank, unconditional but tough love. She called her style a benevolent dictatorship. But honestly, it wasn't always benevolent.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary James Baker and a personal friend recalled the First Lady's passion for books and literacy.

  • SUSAN BAKER:

    The world respects Barbara Bush's deep passion and great effectiveness in equipping those who cannot read with the skill to do so. We all celebrate her vision and tenacious dedication to literacy.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And author Jon Meacham who wrote a 2015 biography of George H.W. Bush reminded the world of Barbara Bush's place in history.

  • JON MEACHAM:

    As the wife of one President and mother of another, she holds a distinction that belongs to one other American in the long history of the republic — Abigail Adams who was present at the creation.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In a private ceremony, Mrs. Bush was buried at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas next to her daughter Robin, who died from leukemia in 1953 at age 3. For more on the life of Barbara Bush I'm joined from Houston by Mary Kate Cary, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and executive producer of "41 on 41." a documentary about his life. Thanks for joining us. You're just coming from the funeral this afternoon. What was it like?

  • MARY KATE CARY:

    It was really a spectacular sendoff for her. Everybody had their Barbara Bush pearls on like I do and it was just a joyful celebration of a great, great life. It was plenty of celebrities, all kinds of people from you know Chrissy Everett and Phil Mickelson and world leaders, John Major and Brian Mulroney, people like that. But then also, the Home Health Aides and all of the women who were Mrs. Bush's personal aides over the years were all right up front with the all the famous and powerful people, which tells you volumes. You know, the all the altar servers on the altar were were females. You saw her young granddaughters reading from Proverbs, you saw the grandsons as pallbearers. So it was a great statement that she made. She made a lot of the choices for the funeral herself and it really came through that her touch was there because it was all about the next generation and just the joy of living a faithful life.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You work closely with the president but you've got to know both of them quite well. How did your friendship develop?

  • MARY KATE CARY:

    So I first met Barbara Bush right after we left office. I was writing speeches for the president for his post presidential speaking tour and I went up to Walker's Point for a day to work on speeches with some of the other writers and President Bush surprise us and announced that we were all going to go for a swim in the ocean. And when we all said we didn't bring our bathing suit he he gave the guys his bathing suits, he had some spares and he had me put on Mrs. Bush's bathing suit, and we went. And it was a very cold day in May or June I guess it was, and in Maine that is some cold water. I first met her as she found me in her bathing suit going towards the ocean and I had to explain what I was doing in it. And I told her that her husband had loaned it to me, I didn't just go into her closet and help myself. And she was unfailingly graceful to me ever after that. She was always very kind. You know, Jeb was making jokes today about the benevolent dictator. I never saw that side of her. She was always very, very kind to me. So I treasure her friendship.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What's her legacy going to be? As you mentioned there were other world leaders that came for her funeral. I mean this is a sendoff that you could say was worthy of a president.

  • MARY KATE CARY:

    Yeah it was. It was remarkable. I think she'll be remembered for her deep faith and her compassion. The stories that were told today did not surprise me one bit. I've heard them for years about all of the kind things she has done. For example, you know when they were running for Senate in 1964, I think it was when President Bush was running for senate, there was a campaign volunteer who arrived. He worked the night shift in a 7-Eleven and then worked the days at the campaign and he was half deaf and an orphan with no family. He was in his 20s. And the Bushes took him in as their own and kept him on their family payroll till he died in his 70s a few years ago and it was this generous, generous gesture of theirs to open their family to him. And yet they never talked about it. They never bragged about it. So many times like that there's so many stories but never from the Bush's. They would never talk about it themselves so that's the kind of thing that I think people will remember because it's so unusual. There was one one line that Susan Baker said that she felt that Barbara Bush felt the greatest yardstick of your success in life is how you treat others. And boy, we could use more of that in the world today. I think that's what she will be remembered for.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Mary Kate Cary, thank you so much for joining us today.

  • MARY KATE CARY:

    Thanks for having me.

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