Sunday, February 15, 2015

DALLAS: GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY

George W. Bush, also known as "#43" (as in the 43rd POTUS), built his Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Three Mustangs, 11-foot-tall bronze statues on SMU campus
The building, designed by the Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University, was completed and dedicated in April 2013. Only the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, is larger.
Living past-presidents and the current president typically gather for a presidential library dedication, and there were five of them (with their wives) at the Bush Library dedication: Jimmy Carter, Geroge H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Geroge W. Bush, and sitting President Barack Obama. Each of the three democrats--Carter, Clinton, and Obama--spoke. I am intrigued by the "old boy network" that past presidents form. I hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication,  I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments.



Before going into the museum itself, we stopped for a bite to eat in the on-site restaurant appropriately named "Cafe 43." It looked like a happenin' place where locals come to dine. I enjoyed the contemporary paintings by local artists
Sculpture with Birds by SMU art professor Mary Vernon
In general, we've found the food served in museum restaurants, whether it be an art museum or a presidential library or a science museum, to be pretty good, and that was definitely true for #43.
Cheddar cheese rolls (exceptional) and flatbread
Poblano chicken chili with avocado
A purple and golden beet salad with mache greens,
blue cheese, and biquinho peppers (also exceptional)
"Mrs. Bush's Favorite Sandwich": tomato, avocado, and mozzarella
Time to go inside the library itself.

Everything I didn't like about the Clinton Presidential Library is corrected in the Bush Library.
It is colorful, loud, and personal. George W. is presented as a fairly ordinary man doing ordinary things as he grew up and before he got into an extraordinary profession:

It is patriotic. Several times I wanted to burst out singing "The Star Spangled Banner."
It is emotional, particularly in the depiction of the events surrounding 9/11:
Bush getting the news about the first plane hitting the
World Trade Center. He was visiting a class of second graders
at Booker Elementary School in  Sarasota, Florida.
Twisted pieces of steel from the Twin Towers
Footage from the days following 9/11.
The museum does not, of course, highlight any of the debacles of the Bush years, but just as we had to accept that at the Clinton Library and the other libraries we had visited, we also had to accept it here. A presidential library is one of the ways a past-president can shape a lasting image of himself, to focus on what he (or someday she) would like to be remembered for. 

There are several very nice interactive stations throughout, including "The White House Explorer" computer program, which is topped by Spotty Fletcher, the Bush family's springer spaniel and the only pet to live through two consecutive terms in the White House.

Like other presidential libraries, this one also has a mock-up of the Bush Oval Office. While not as beautiful as the one we had seen in the Clinton Library a few days previous, at least we could go inside this one, and a photographer was available to take pictures of visitors sitting behind the presidential desk (for a fee, of course).
I forgot to take a picture, so I borrowed one from here.
Face it--we like glitz and glamour in the presidency. We want the world to know we can hold our own with the kings and queens around the world. There was some of that on display.

There are the usual displays of treasures from around the world that were given to President Bush (and hence, to the people of the United States) during his presidency. As far as gifts from foreign dignitaries go, this stuffed lion has to be one of the best:
It was presented to President Bush by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete during Bush's trip to Africa in 2008. (Having just seen lions in Tanzania six months prior to our visit to the Bush Library, this display really drew my attention.)
Somewhat more traditional gifts also came from Tanzania, including a blanket with Bush's face superimposed on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Love love LOVE the President Bush dresses on these flag-waving Tanzanian women. They remind me of the "Prophet Dresses" worn by members of the LDS Church in Ghana.
Laura and George W. with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet:
Visuals like this one, mapping the areas of HIV concentration, are very compelling:

In my opinion, the very best thing about George W. is Laura. He hit the jackpot with her. There is a significant amount of space donated to her life and activities:

Daughters Barbara and Jenna are pretty wonderful too:

There is even a display of gifts presented to the First Lady:
As we were there a few days before Christmas, there were some special Christmas displays, including this display about the making of a Presidential Christmas card:
One of my favorite parts of the museum was a movie that was being projected on a band of the wall just below the ceiling in a large room at the end of the tour. The music was beautiful and the images were so inspiring that I recorded two short segments. It is a great way to end a visit to a presidential library.


READING
I've mentioned this book in a previous post, but it seems even more relevant here after having watched the YouTube videos of the dedication of the George W. Bush Library. In The Presidents Club,  Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy discuss how friendships overcome party politics as the sitting president and the past presidents work together to achieve common goals. Surprisingly, there are a LOT of common goals, as can been seen in the videos posted above.

These men may appear to be enemies during campaigns, but once they have served as the President of the United States, they share a common experience that no one else on earth can really understand. They need and rely on each other in some very interesting ways.

5 comments:

  1. Laura must have been greatly relieved she couldn't take home that stuffed lion.

    Too bad we can't all built ourselves monuments for posterity shining the light on our high points and ignoring the boo boos and missteps.

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  2. I'm glad, and I agree: "I hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments.hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments. hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments."... Amen

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm glad, and I agree: "I hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments.hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments. hate extreme partisanship, the kind that leads to name-calling on Facebook, the Glenn Beck Show, and the New York Times. Listening to these speeches given by political "enemies" at the dedication, I see none of that. Rather, I get the feeling that these men are actually friends, that they consult with each other, and that they have respect for each other's accomplishments."... Amen

    ReplyDelete
  4. Presidential libraries are very interesting memorials by past presidents.

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  5. I voted for "W" both times and look back in horror over some of the decisions he made, particularly including the invasion of Iraq to ostensibly destroy WMD. I've thought him one of the worst presidents ever, but came away from the visit to the Library really liking him again as a person, and really liking Laura. W and his father have the two best presidential libraries. A very worthwhile visit.

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