Following are excerpts from the text of President Bush’s tribute to Ronald Reagan
We lost Ronald Reagan only days ago but we have missed him for a long time. We have missed his kindly presence, that reassuring voice and the happy ending we had wished for him.
It has been 10 years since he said his own farewell, yet it is still very sad and hard to let him go. Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us. . . .
Ronald Reagan believed that everything happens for a reason and that we should strive to know and do the will of God. He believed that the gentleman always does the kindest thing. He believed that people were basically good and had the right to be free. He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of.
He believed in the golden rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world. And he believed in taking a break now and then, because, as we said, there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. . . .
Ronald Reagan’s deepest beliefs never had much to do with fashion or convenience. His convictions were always politely stated, affably argued, and as firm and straight as the columns of this cathedral. . . .
He came to office with great hopes for America. And more than hopes. Like the president he had revered and once saw in person, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan matched an optimistic temperament with bold, persistent action.
President Reagan was optimistic about the great promise of economic reform, and he acted to restore the rewards and spirit of enterprise. He was optimistic that a strong America could advance the peace, and he acted to build the strength that mission required.
He was optimistic that liberty would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend liberty wherever it was threatened. And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon he called that evil by its name.
There were no doubters in the prisons and gulags, where dissidents spread the news, tapping to each other in code what the American president had dared to say. There were no doubters in the shipyards and churches and secret labor meetings where brave men and women began to hear the creaking and rumbling of a collapsing empire. And there were no doubters among those who swung hammers at the hated wall that the first and hardest blow had been struck by President Ronald Reagan.
The ideology he opposed throughout his political life insisted that history was moved by impersonal tides and unalterable fates. Ronald Reagan believed instead in the courage and triumph of free men and we believe it all the more because we saw that courage in him.
As he showed what a president should be, he also showed us what a man should be.
Ronald Reagan carried himself, even in the most powerful office, with the decency and attention to small kindnesses that also define a good life. He was a courtly, gentle and considerate man, never known to slight or embarrass others. . . .
In the end, through his belief in our country and his love for our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country.
We think of the steady stride, that tilt of the head and snap of the salute, the big-screen smile, and the glint in his Irish eyes when a story came to mind.
We think of a man advancing in years with the sweetness and sincerity of a scout saying the pledge. We think of that grave expression that sometimes came over his face, the seriousness of a man angered by injustice and frightened by nothing.
We know, as he always said, that America’s best days are ahead of us. But with Ronald Reagan’s passing, some very fine days are behind us. And that is worth our tears.
Americans saw death approach Ronald Reagan twice, in a moment of violence and then in the years of departing light. He met both with courage and grace. In these trials, he showed how a man so enchanted by life can be at peace with life’s end.
And where does that strength come from? Where is that courage learned? It is the faith of a boy who read the Bible with his mom. It is the faith of a man lying in an operating room who prayed for the one who shot him before he prayed for himself. It is the faith of a man with a fearful illness who waited on the Lord to call him home.
Now death has done all that death can do, and as Ronald Wilson Reagan goes his way, we are left with the joyful hope he shared. In his last years he saw through a glass darkly. Now he sees his savior face to face.
And we look for that fine day when we will see him again, all weariness gone, clear of mind, strong and sure and smiling again, and the sorrow of this parting gone forever.
May God bless Ronald Reagan and the country he loved.