The five-day mourning period for the late Senator John McCain will end Sunday when he is buried at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, near Washington.
The final resting place of the Arizona Republican, who died last Saturday at age 81, will be next to that of his longtime friend and academy classmate, Admiral Chuck Larson, who died in 2014.
McCain, a former aviator who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, made one of his last public appearances at the academy in October, when he told the student body that the school prepared him for challenges he had yet to confront.
"I would discover that a sense of honor had been imparted to me here that would speak to me in the darkest hours," he said. "And so I came back, again and again, to the place where I learned to dread dishonor."
At a private memorial service for McCain on Saturday in Washington's National Cathedral, former Democratic President Barack Obama hailed McCain, his friend and onetime political opponent, as an inspiration to all Americans "to be better, to do better, to be worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed."
“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama said.View full gallery
Without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Obama added, “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”
In his eulogy for his fellow Republican, former President George W. Bush said McCain “was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings.”
Bush also rejected the status quo of Washington politics, which he said was contrary to McCain’s personal beliefs.
“He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators,” Bush said. “Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power.”
Bush and Obama were invited to remember their friend at the service, which McCain planned himself as he battled brain cancer. McCain lost the Republican presidential nomination to Bush in 2000 and the presidential election to Obama in 2008.
McCain's wife, Cindy, his seven children and his 106-year-old mother were among the hundreds of relatives, friends, former congressional colleagues, staff members and foreign dignitaries who gathered at the cathedral before his flag-draped coffin.
McCain’s daughter Meghan also paid tribute to her father with a veiled reference to Trump and his "Make America Great Again" mantra.
“America does not boast because she does not need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said to applause.
"We live in an era where we knock down old American heroes for all their imperfections when no leader wants to admit to fault or failure,” Meghan said, adding that her father was “an exception, and you gave us an ideal to strive for.”
Others who delivered tributes and readings included Senator Lindsey Graham; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who advised then-President Richard Nixon on Vietnam; and other McCain family members.
Pallbearers included actor Warren Beatty, former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza.
McCain's body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda Friday into Saturday morning after a ceremony honoring him. At the Capitol, McCain's coffin rested on a wooden platform known as a catafalque, which was first used in 1865 to support the casket of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
The cortege Saturday from the Capitol to the National Cathedral paused at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where Cindy McCain laid a wreath to honor those who died in the war.
McCain said in a farewell letter to the country, "We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe."
He added, "We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been."
Trump was not invited to any of the ceremonies for McCain, a decision viewed by many as a rebuke of the current president. A bitter feud between Trump and the two-time presidential hopeful took root during Trump's 2016 campaign, when he mocked McCain for having been captured during the Vietnam War.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
Trump, who went golfing in nearby Virginia while the eulogies were delivered, received military deferments from service during the Vietnam War for his college education and bone spurs in his heels.
'John had character'
On Thursday, at a funeral service for McCain in the Arizona capital of Phoenix, Biden described his old friend as a man who lived by an ageless code of honor, courage and duty.
"Character is destiny, John had character," Biden said.