But it was a rebuke of the president who wasn't there by McCain's daughter that stole the headlines.
“America does not boast, because she has no need to,” Meghan McCain said. “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.”
The New York Times reported that as Meghan McCain was delivering her eulogy, "Mr. Trump took off in a motorcade from the White House, destination unknown but presumably his golf course in Virginia. According to reporters traveling with Mr. Trump, 'the president is wearing a white shirt-sleeved shirt and white MAGA hat' — the very slogan that Meghan McCain took aim at in her eulogy."
While President Trump was not invited to the service, his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, attended. Also notably absent was McCain's 2008 Republican running mate, Sarah Palin.
Among the other political stars at the National Cathedral were President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senators Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy, Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Governor Mitt Romney, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Filmmaker Warren Beatty was among the pallbearers. McCain died on August 25 after a long bout with brain cancer.
Meghan McCain, co-host of The View, called her father "a great warrior. He was a great American. I admire him for all of these things, but I love him because he was a great father.
“He was a great fire who burned bright,” she added. “A few have resented that fire for that light it cast upon them, for the truth it revealed about their character, but my father never cared what they thought. And even that small number still have the opportunity, as long as they draw breath, to live up to the example of John McCain.”
Obama acknowledged that he was surprised at first that he and Bush, the two men who defeated McCain's bids to become president, would be asked to speak at the funeral.
But then he noted that maybe it was a fitting choice.
"John liked being unpredictable, being a little contrarian," Obama said. "...It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor ... and his mischievous streak. What better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience."
Among the other tributes:
George W. Bush: “He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators. He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings.”
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: "The world will be lonelier without John McCain. His beliefs, his faith in America, and his instinctive sense of moral duty. None of us will ever forget that — even in his parting — John has bestowed on us a much-needed moment of unity and a renewed faith in the possibilities of America."
Senator Joe Lieberman: "... remarkably his death seems to have reminded the American people that these values are what make us a great nation. Not the tribal partisanship, personal attack politics that have recently characterized our life. This week, the celebration of the life and values and patriotism of this hero I think have taken our country above all that. In a way it is the last great gift that John McCain gave America and I want to suggest today that we can give a last great gift to him which is to nurture these values and take them forward into the years ahead to make America the better country John always knew it could be. I pray that we will and I ask you to do so as well."
Material from the New York Times, CNN, John McCain's U.S. Senate Office, and the Washington Post was used in this report.