Former President Barack Obama has announced that he will be attending former First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral today, along with his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama. He hasn’t attended many public funerals in recent years, but he’s making an exception for Barbara Bush.
In a statement about Barbara Bush, the Obamas said: “Barbara Bush was the rock of a family dedicated to public service, and our thoughts and prayers are with both Presidents Bush and the entire Bush family tonight. We’ll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House, but we’re even more grateful for the way she lived her life — as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling; as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit. She’ll be remembered for passing those American values on to her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren — and to the countless citizens whom she and George inspired to become ‘points of light’ in service to others.”
It is actually unusual for Barack Obama to attend such a public funeral, as he has shied away from other recent ones over the years. But he has apparently made an exception for the former First Lady.
Obama did not attend Billy Graham’s funeral in March. Obama considered Graham to be a personal friend, but he couldn’t attend the funeral and did not give a specific reason why. However, in 2010 he visited Graham at his home in Monteat, North Carolina.
In the past, when Obama didn’t attend a funeral of someone important or that he was close to, it was often due to a scheduling conflict. In 2016, Obama did not attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral, but he did attend the lying in repose ceremony. When asked why Obama wasn’t attending Scalia’s funeral, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, just said, “The president will pay his respects at the Supreme Court on Friday and he’ll be joined by the first lady.” He added that Obama wants to honor Scalia’s life and service and believes that is important.
Obama also didn’t attend Nancy Reagan’s funeral in 2016, but Michelle Obama did attend. Instead, Obama spoke at SXSW in Austin. Obama was always lavish in his praise and admiration of Nancy Reagan, saying that she helped ease his and Michelle’s transition into the White House. He said that she “could not have been more gracious and more charming” to himself and Michelle when they first entered the White House in 2009, The Hill reported. He also said, “‘Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.”
Obama also didn’t attend Muhammad Ali’s funeral in 2016, due to an important family engagement happening at the same time. Obama’s oldest daughter Malia’s graduation was on the same day as Muhammad Ali’s funeral. Because of this, the White House senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett attended in his place. Valerie knew Muhammad Ali personally.
So as you can see, Obama’s attending Barbara Bush’s funeral is a special moment indeed.