The music 'moved him': George W. Bush's bopping during Dallas memorial explained

Some people judge those who laugh at funerals. But what about those who "dance"? George W. Bush did just that during Monday's Dallas memorial.

Former president inspired to 'dance' during The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Some criticizing former president for his moves during the service 0:41

Some people judge those who laugh during funerals. But what about those who "dance"?

George W. Bush did just that during Monday's memorial service for the Dallas shooting victims, bopping along as a choir sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic — leaving many wondering exactly what had possessed the former president.

Bush held hands with Michelle Obama and his wife, Laura, while swaying back and forth between the two. As the familiar "Glory, glory, hallelujah" chorus hit, he clasped their hands and awkwardly raised them up and down. Both gave him questionable looks while he was doing it.

Almost all of the other dignitaries Bush shared the stage with looked solemn and stood still during the hymn — though Laura Bush and Michelle and Barack Obama all cracked a smile.

Although some called his moves disrespectful, Bush spokesman Freddy Ford called the hymn a hopeful moment in a sombre ceremony.

"I would encourage any and all cynics looking for something to criticize to find a different subject than a memorial for fallen peace officers, and to watch more than just the clip of President Bush swaying to the music at the end of the ceremony," he told CBC News in an email on Tuesday.

"I hope they can open their hearts to the history and text of The Battle Hymn of the Republic; the finale song that moved him so … was selected to conclude the memorial because it is a joyful, spiritual, triumphant song."

Bush, who lives in Dallas, spoke earlier in the ceremony. He talked about bridging divisions after the shootings in Dallas, where five police officers were killed by a sniper.

"At times it feels like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together," Bush said. "Argument turns too easily into animosity."

Social speculation

While Ford's statement has since helped clarify Bush's vigorous swaying, many on social media have spent time speculating the former president's actions.

Some compared it to laughing at a funeral.

Bush has been known to dance in public in the past in a variety of situations.

But several found the moves inappropriate, considering the circumstances.

Others thought they had it all figured out.

Among the several theories floating around since the ceremony is the thought that Bush might have had to use the bathroom.

Several pointed to Bush's age, as he turned 70 last week.

About the Author

Haydn Watters is a roving reporter for Ontario, primarily serving the province's local radio shows. He has worked for CBC News and CBC Radio in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and the entertainment unit. He also ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont.