April 26, 2013

Presidents past and present join to help dedicate Bush library

Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter take the stage together Thursday to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

By Jamie Stengle and Josh Lederman / The Associated Press

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President Barack Obama stands with former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday.

AP

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Ahead of the ceremony, former first lady Barbara Bush made waves by brushing aside talk of her son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, running for the White House in 2016.

"We've had enough Bushes," said Mrs. Bush, the wife of George H.W. Bush and mother of George W. Bush, in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.

Yet George W. Bush talked up the presidential prospects of his brother in an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC.

"He doesn't need my counsel, because he knows what it is, which is, 'Run,' " Bush said.

Key moments and themes from George W. Bush's presidency were not far removed from the minds of the presidents and guests assembled to dedicate the center, where interactive exhibits invite scrutiny of Bush's major choices as president, such as the financial bailout, the Iraq war and the international focus on HIV and AIDS.

More than 70 million pages of paper records. Two hundred million emails. Four million digital photos. About 43,000 artifacts. Bush's library will feature the largest digital holdings of any of the 13 presidential libraries under the auspices of the National Archives and Records Administration, officials said. Situated in a 15-acre urban park at Southern Methodist University, the center includes 226,000 square feet of indoor space.

A full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it looked during Bush's tenure sits on the campus, as does a piece of steel from the World Trade Center and the bullhorn that Bush used to punctuate the chaos at ground zero three days after 9/11. In the museum, visitors can gaze at a container of chads -- the remnants of the famous Florida punch card ballots that played a pivotal role in the contested 2000 election that sent Bush to Washington.

Laura Bush led the design committee, officials said, with a keen eye toward ensuring that her family's Texas roots were conspicuously reflected. Architects used local materials, including Texas Cordova cream limestone and trees from the central part of the state, in its construction.

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