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Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today paid tribute to former President George H.W. Bush on the Senate floor.

Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, on Friday, George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States, went to his eternal reward.

“His death marks the passing of an era.

“George H.W. Bush was the last president to have served in World War II.

“He enlisted on his 18th birthday, postponing college to serve his country, and went on to become the youngest pilot in the Navy.

“During his three years of service, he flew 58 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.

“Throughout his life, he exemplified the characteristics of the Greatest Generation.


“Love of country.



“His achievements in public office were significant.

“As vice president he helped Ronald Reagan turn the economy around and combat the Evil Empire.

“And as president, he presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union and helped bring order and stability to the world stage in its aftermath.

“But through it all he stayed humble and down-to-earth.

“I saw an article this week with anecdotes from Secret Service agents who had protected President Bush.

“And what stood out to me the most was the fact that he used to stay in Washington over Christmas so that his Secret Service agents could spend the day with their families.

“That was the kind of man he was.

‘We throw around the term “public service” in government.

“But for George Bush, that term meant something.

“‘Public service’ was a real thing for him.

“Being a congressman, being CIA director, being an ambassador, being president – these weren’t chances to aggrandize himself or burnish his resume.

“These were chances to serve.

“To give something back to the country he loved and had fought to protect.

“President Bush was a statesman, a man of principle who understood that you could speak the truth without demonizing your opponents.

“He and President Clinton may have been political adversaries, but that didn’t stop him from teaming up with President Clinton to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami.

“He was also, as every American knows, a devoted family man, a beloved father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

“He and his wife Barbara, who died earlier this year, were married for 73 years – the longest marriage of any presidential couple in our nation’s history.

“The love and affection and friendship between them were palpable.

“Mr. President, by now I think most Americans have seen the moving image from cartoonist Marshall Ramsey paying tribute to President Bush.

“In the cartoon, President Bush is depicted as having flown his WWII plane, a TBM Avenger, to heaven.

“There he joins hands with his beloved daughter Robin and his beloved wife, who says, “We waited for you.”

“I am sure that their reunion was a joyful one.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”