Reagan's funeral draws domestic and foreign dignitaries and a world of emotion
In front of family, friends, American politicians, foreign heads of state and a worldwide television audience, funeral services were held for former President Ronald Reagan. Inside Washington's National Cathedral, America's 40th president was remembered for his leadership, sense of humor and a political prowess that helped bring an end to the Cold War.
The funeral service comes after a weeklong tribute to Reagan. Tens of thousands of mourners circled the former leader's casket as it lied in repose in California and in state underneath the dome of the U.S. Capitol. While the dual coast viewings were largely for the public, the funeral was a private ceremony that attracted some of the world's most powerful men and women. All four living ex-U.S. presidents - Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton - were in attendance along with foreign leaders ranging from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Also gathering in the cathedral were Cold War-era heads of state, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Thatcher, who came to Washington despite a series of recent strokes, was one of four dignitaries asked to deliver eulogies. In a taped address, she recalled Reagan's optimism and ability to reshape the world. Calling him the "Great Liberator," Thatcher said Reagan's politics and freshness ultimately won over the world and the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union.
Reagan's leadership was also a common theme in a eulogy delivered by family friend and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He spoke about the late president's ideologies and firm belief that communism was wrong. Mulroney reassured mourners that Reagan would be remembered affectionately from "Maryland to Madagascar."
President George Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, also spoke at the service. The elder Bush, who was Reagan's vice president for eight years, recalled his boss's ability to see humor in difficult times. At one point, Bush became choked up in emotion when he said, "I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life." The current President Bush delivered a 15-minte eulogy, in which he credited Reagan with inspiring America and transforming the world. Bush also paid tribute to Nancy Reagan for her love and loyalty towards her husband.
In a poignant moment before the funeral, Nancy Reagan kissed the president's flag-draped casket as it lied in state in the Capitol. She patted the coffin several times and appeared to have a conversation with her husband of 52 years. Nancy will get one final goodbye Friday evening during a sunset burial in California. The former president's body will be laid to rest at his presidential library outside of Los Angeles.