WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will gather with his former predecessors at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday for the state funeral of George H.W. Bush, an event likely to emphasize the 41st president’s decency and grace at a time when politics has gotten more tribal and polarized.
Prince Charles and other world figures are also expected to attend. Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will deliver one of the eulogies, along with biographer Jon Meacham, former Senator Alan Simpson, and Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush.
Trump will not speak at the service, but the Bush family made a point of inviting him despite a chilly relationship with him over the years. Bush did not vote for him, and George W. Bush chose none of the above.
But those divisions were not apparent as the Bush family returned to Washington, first to attend a ceremony as Bush lied in state at the Capitol Rotunda. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited with Bush and Laura Bush at the White House on Tuesday, and later went to Blair House, across the street, later in the day. Trump also declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.
The cathedral in northwest Washington is where the elder Bush comforted his son at a memorial service in the aftermath of 9/11, one of many national events that have been held in the gothic revival space. Former president Woodrow Wilson is buried in one of the crypts, and the cathedral is also the final resting place of Helen Keller and, most recently, Matthew Shepard.
It is also where John McCain’s funeral was held on Sept. 1, but his family did not invite the Trumps. Some of the eulogists contrasted McCain’s character and political spirit with that of Trump.
No such statement is expected that the Bush funeral, but it’s likely that he will be eulogized as a leader unique for his devotion to public service.
Early on Wednesday, the grounds of the cathedral were surrounded by very heavy security, with precautions taken no matter the notoriety. Media figures like Tom Brokaw, Lester Holt, Bret Baier, and Andrea Mitchell gathered in a holding area in another building along with dozens of other reporters before they were escorted into the church.
The ceremony also will feature readings from three of Bush’s granddaughters, Lauren Bush Lauren, Ashley Walker Bush, and Jenna Bush Hager. Soloists Michael W. Smith and Ronan Tynan will perform musical interludes, along with the U.S. Marine Orchestra, the Armed Forces Chorus, the U.S. Coast Guard Band and musicians from the cathedral.
The cathedral’s bourdon bell will ring 41 times — Bush was the 41st president — as the cortege moves from the United States Capitol to the Cathedral.