Former President George H.W. Bush’s death overnight elicited swift words of praise from Pennsylvania and New Jersey Republicans and Democrats Saturday morning, who remembered him as a tireless humanitarian who did not let political differences prohibit friendships and cooperation.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, Philadelphia’s onetime Democratic mayor, called Bush “a great American and a great guy” who showed empathy to cities and their needs.
“For a Republican, he was pretty good to cities,” Rendell said at the Pennsylvania Society in New York, an annual gathering for Pennsylvania’s political elite and the special interests who want something from them.
At one of the marquee events there Saturday — the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association’s seminar, featuring a lengthy lineup of speakers — the morning began with a moment of silence for Bush.
The newly-minted House Majority leader, Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, began his speech quoting Bush’s belief that power should be used to help people.
In 2003, Bush received the “gold medal” award for Distinguished Achievement at the Pennsylvania Society dinner. The award is given to prominent people to honor their leadership and contributions to education, the sciences and the arts.
Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf ordered all Commonwealth flags on public buildings throughout the state to fly at half-staff until Jan. 1, and said in statement:
“President George H.W. Bush was a kind and gentle man who dedicated his life to service, and he will be greatly missed. A decorated war hero and career public servant with extensive credentials, President Bush protected and brought honor to America. “41” will be remembered for signing the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, his post-presidency work on behalf of his fellow veterans, and bringing honor and grace to his service.
New Jersey Gov. Murphy said: “A true American leader both at war and in peace, President Bush was kind, heroic, thoughtful, and of the highest professional and personal character. He lived a life in service to his fellow Americans and taught those he touched with his unwavering integrity.”
In Philadelphia, Jeffrey Rosen, president of the Constitution Center, which Bush chaired from 2006 to 2008, called the former president “an American hero” in a tweet Saturday.
Across Pennsylvania and the world, others weighed in on Bush’s passing:
“President George H.W. Bush was a great American patriot, dedicated public servant, tireless humanitarian, and a caring family man.” – U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, (R., Pa.).
“Michele and I mourn the passing of a great man who was beloved by a nation and respected by the world. A man guided by decency and humility.” – Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
“While I didn’t always agree with his policies, specifically around the AIDS epidemic and the failed war on drugs, there is no denying his love for our country displayed over decades of service. May his leadership and willingness to serve be an example for us all – and may his loved ones find peace during this difficult time." – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
(He) “was a man of the highest character. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41′s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad.” — Former President George W. Bush.
“George H.W. Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.” — Former President Barack Obama.
“The legacy of George H.W. Bush will be forever etched in the history of America and the world. It is a lifelong record of selfless patriotic service to our nation.” — James A. Baker III, secretary of state in the Bush administration.
“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service_to be, in his words, “a thousand points of light” illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world.” — President Donald Trump.
“I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed. From the moment I met him as a young governor invited to his home in Kennebunkport, I was struck by the kindness he showed to Chelsea, by his innate and genuine decency, and by his devotion to Barbara, his children, and their growing brood.” — Former President Bill Clinton.
“The world has lost a great leader; this country has lost one of its best; and I have lost one of my dearest friends. I am heartbroken.” — Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security adviser.
"Texans are genuinely honored that he (Bush) called the Lone Star State home and we collectively grieve this monumental loss. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
(George H.W. Bush) tried to “create a new international order based on justice and equality among nations” ... he never “forgot the Kuwaiti people and will remain in their memory.” — Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
“Remembering President George H.W. Bush and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Millions of with Disabilities and who are Deaf or HOH (hard of hearing) lives have been changed for the better as a result of his signing this landmark legislation. My condolences to his entire family RIP #georgehwbush.” — Actress Marlee Matlin, who herself is deaf, via Twitter.
“President George H.W. Bush was the real deal. We fought but he was gracious enough to accept my apology. Through his daughter Dorothy, my friends Ron Kaufman and Mary Matalin, I got to know him. Rest in Peace #georgehwbush” — Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, via Twitter
“I will never forget George H.W. Bush and President Clinton meeting me in my old hometown of New Orleans to show support and raise money after Hurricane Katrina. I send my love to his family tonight.” — Ellen DeGeneres, via Twitter.
“As an American envoy to Beijing, as CIA Director, as Vice President for eight years and then four years as President, George H.W. Bush’s statesmanship played a key role in helping to end the Cold War, which bought democracy to millions of people in Europe and diminished the threat of nuclear war. George H.W. Bush was a strong supporter of the international rules-based system, the rule of law and democratic values.” — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"It was a time of great change, demanding great responsibility from everyone. The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race. (My wife, Raisa, and I) “deeply appreciated the attention, kindness and simplicity typical of George and Barbara Bush, as well as the rest of their large, friendly family.” — Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
“He was in fact the first American President that I was privileged to meet. I recall being deeply touched by your father’s concern for the Tibetan people and the situation in Tibet. It is truly admirable to have lived over 94 years. While nothing can replace the loss of a father, we can rejoice in the fact that his was a meaningful life, dedicated to public service. I commend your parents for encouraging their children, including you my dear friend, to devote yourselves to the service of others.” — Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama
(President George H.W. Bush was) “a great statesman and a true friend of our country” whose “ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all ... in navigating a peaceful end to the Cold War he made the world a safer place for generations to come.” — British Prime Minister Theresa May
(He) “saw America’s obligation to the world and honored it. I feel privileged to have worked with him, and even more privileged that he became a lifelong friend. He was, quite simply, one of the most deep-down decent people I have ever known.” — John Major, British Prime Minister from 1990-1997.
“We are mourning a great statesman and a friend of Germany ... (Bush) courageously seized the opportunity to end the Cold War ... he is also an architect of German unity. He supported it from the beginning without reservations. We will never forget that.” — Heiko Maas, German foreign minister.
"The Palace is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of former President George Herbert Walker Bush of the United States of America. Mr. George Bush, Sr. ... was credited for his foreign policy which saw the end of the Cold War. He stood for freedom and his words about the subject ring a bell until this day when he said, “The anchor in our world today is freedom, holding us steady in times of change, a symbol of hope to all the world. On behalf of the Filipino nation and people, we wish to convey our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Mr. Bush, as well as to the government and the people of the United States of America.” — Salvador S. Panelo, chief presidential legal counsel and presidential spokesperson.
“Former President George H. W. Bush was passionate about strong relations between India and USA. His presence will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.” — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, via Twitter.
“The President’s life was one of service, to his country and to his family ... President Bush was the embodiment of the values of the United States, standing up for what was right and fighting throughout his life for freedom from tyranny and oppression in any guise. In fighting for these values so cherished by both our nations, he was a true friend to Australia and it was Australia’s honour to host him at the Australian Parliament in 1991. The President’s civility, charm and warmth endeared him to his nation and to people everywhere, making him loved as much as he was admired and respected. We join with the American people to mourn his passing.” — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of former President George H.W. Bush. His administration was marked by grace, civility, and social conscience. Through his Points of Light initiative and other projects, he espoused a uniquely American volunteer spirit, fostering bipartisan support for citizen service and inspiring millions to embrace community volunteerism as a cherished responsibility. We again extend our heartfelt condolences to the Bush family.” — Former President Jimmy Carter.
“A distinguished man has passed away. One who served his country for his entire life, with a weapon in his hands during wartime and in high office during peacetime.” — Russian leader Vladimir Putin, via the Kremlin website.
“Beginning with his posting as United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1971 and continuing through his appointment as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the South Asia Earthquake Disaster in 2005, George H. W. Bush worked productively with and through the United Nations. Across the years I was consistently impressed by his compassion, instinct for moderation and commitment to public service.” — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“President George H.W. Bush accomplished historic, great achievements by contributing to peace and stability of the international community.” — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“He will be long remembered in the hearts of our people for his dedication to world peace and safety while leading the efforts that brought an end to the Cold War and reconciliation between the East and West, and also for his strong efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula and develop the alliance between South Korea and the United States.” — South Korean President Moon Jae-in, via Twitter.
“President Bush’s calmness, leadership and close personal relationships with Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev were decisive in restoring peace and freedom back to so many people across our Continent. We Europeans will forever remember this.” — EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The German people had in him a true friend who recognized the significance of this historic hour and gave us his trust and support.” — German Chancellor Angela Merkel.