Celebrating the life and legacy of George H.W. Bush

Remembering the 41st president of the United States of America, dead at the age of 94.
9:24 | 12/01/18

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Transcript for Celebrating the life and legacy of George H.W. Bush
Good morning, everybody. As we remember the life and legacy of George Herbert walker bush, our 41st president, he was the devoted husband to Barbara who passed away in April of this year, he was the son of the U.S. Senator and, of course, the father of George W. Bush, the 43rd president. A man who brought a dedication to traditional American values, who promised to bring to the world a Kinder and gentler nation. You're looking at a live shot right now out of Houston where there is a statue of the former president and can see some have already left flowers. He is beloved in his hometown of Houston. Meanwhile at the white house, the flag is at half-staff to honor the man who devoted his life to serving this country. We have team coverage this morning and begin here with ABC news senior national correspondent Terry Moran who is in Washington. Terry, good morning to you. Reporter: Good morning, Dan. Good morning, guys. It is really the end of an era, isn't it? The passing of a remarkable American. George Herbert walker bush is often called the most successful one-term president the country has ever had. He became president at an absolutely critical time in world history, the end of the cold war, as you said, and he handled it all superbly. His whole life seemed to have prepared him for that moment and what a life it was. January 1989. I, George Herbert walker bush, do solemnly swear -- Reporter: 64 years old and had at long last reached the pinnacle of American power. But for George H.W. Bush, the presidency was really just one chapter in a remarkable lifetime of service to our country, a record of heroism and leadership he found hard by his nature to discuss. I may sometimes be a little awkward, but there's nothing self-conscious in my love of country. Reporter: Today in a noisier and coarser political era, it's almost hard to imagine that such a man so thoroughly decent and so moderate in his beliefs and style could be president. You must feel responsibility to others. You must believe in serving others. I think that's a fundamental tenet of my life. Reporter: George Bush was born on the 12th of June, 1924 into the privileged world of the eastern establishment. His father Prescott bush would later become a United States senator from Connecticut, a Republican. On his 18th birthday in 1942, George enlisted to fight in World War II, becoming the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy. Two years later on his 50th mission, his plane was shot down over the pacific. I knew if I wasn't rescued, I would be captured, and it was a harrowing experience. Reporter: Just months before the war ended, bush came home and married his teenage sweetheart Barbara pierce and over the years they had six children, future president George W. Bush, future Florida governor Jeb, sons Marvin and Neal, daughter Dorothy and a little girl named robin who died of leukemia at the age of 3 in 1953. The pain of that loss was still evident years later in an interview with ABC's Diane sawyer. But he was very close. I was very close to her. She adored him. What was it that pulled you back up on your feet afterwards? He was very strong then. He was wonderful. Reporter: George and Barbara Bush were married longer than any first couple in the nation's history. A love story that lasted more than 73 years. After college at Yale university, bush moved to Texas, became a successful oil man and won a seat in congress in 1966. Then came a string of high-profile appointments serving the country in so many ways. Now ambassador bush -- Reporter: From the united nations to envoy to China to director of the CIA. I will put politics totally out of my sphere of activities. But there was one goal that remains. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a candidate for president of the United States. Reporter: It was 1980 and bush ran as a moderate, but 1980 was Ronald Reagan's year. Reagan picked bush as his running mate and for eight years George Bush was a loyal vice president. When his own time finally came -- ?????? -- he offered his own vision, a reflection of his deepest ideals. I want a Kinder and gentler nation. Reporter: As president George Bush led the nation skillfully on the world stage as the Berlin wall came down and the soviet union collapsed and when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait -- A line has been drawn in the sand. Reporter: -- Bush pulled together a broad coalition of allies including many Arab nations and launched "Operation desert storm." Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are met. Reporter: He seemed a sure bet for re-election in 1992. But the economy tanked and the moderate bush had broken a pledge to the increasingly conservative Republican party. Read my lips. No new taxes. Reporter: It might have cost him the election. And defeat was so bitter for him as he recalled with Diane sawyer. I just had a great feeling of letting down a lot of people. A lot of people that worked for me. You have this ghastly feeling you let them down then you get over it and you go on with your life. Reporter: But so typical of this gentle man, years later he forged a surprising friendship with the man would beat him, Bill Clinton, when they raised money together for the victims of the south Asian tsunami and later for those in hurricane Katrina. I think it sent a good sign across the country that you don't -- because you run against somebody doesn't make you an enemy. Reporter: That's the way we'd like it to be. In George H.W. Bush's America that's the way it could be. He died a man of character, a man of faith, a man ready as the old saying goes to enter his house justified. I do think that you go to heaven, there is a heaven, and I don't fear it though. When I was a little guy, I'd fear death. I'd worry about it. I'd be scared. Not anymore. And we're back now with Terry Moran in Washington. Terry, talk a little bit more if you will about the remarkable friendship between George Bush and the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton. We were sitting there watching these pictures on a Saturday morning and as Eva was saying it's clear that bush really came to enjoy the presence and company of the man who defeated him. That kind of across the aisle friendship seems vanishly rare in our current environment. It sure does, Dan. And it was even more remarkable because as we heard from George H.W. Bush himself, he was devastated by losing to bill Clinton. That was a tough election. They went after each other hammer and tongs. Bill Clinton from a different generation and a different set of values. Didn't have much in common but worked together and it's a testament to president George H.W. Bush's character that he was able to rise up from defeat and befriend Bill Clinton, also a testament to Clinton's charm. President bush once said you just can't stay mad at that guy. Terry Moran, thank you. We also want to bring in ABC news political commentator cokie Roberts in D.C. Cokie, I imagine in the coming days there will be many comparisons made between the style of George H.W. Bush and the style of our current president. You knew bush senior. What are your observations 4 -- this morning? Well, they couldn't be more different. George H.W. Bush was a great respecter of American institutions including the congress, even though he had a congress that sent him a lot of bills that he vetoed, though he was very proud of the Americans with disabilities act that he worked on with the Democrats but I last saw president bush a couple of months ago and I said to him, your mother always said don't brag, and he said, right. And I said, Donald Trump's mother didn't tell him that. We talk about president George H.W. Bush as this transitional president. The end of the cold war between Reagan, between, you know -- before Clinton, but in hindsight what will be his signature achievement, do you think? Well, I think the end of the cold war has got to be the signature. I mean, the fact that it came -- the Berlin wall came down and eastern Europe was liberated on his watch is enormous, and the fact that it happened peacefully and a lot of that had to do with his again respect for international institutions. He talked to me at one point about why he didn't go to Baghdad after he liberated Kuwait, and he said, I had told the united nations that's what I was going to do, and I didn't think it was right to lie to the united nations and go on to Baghdad. So he always kept in mind what those institutioe cared about them. Yes, of course, his son would go on to make a very different decision as it pertained to Baghdad. Cokie Roberts, we really appreciate it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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