Here are excerpts of the remarks by President Barack Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
I’ll be very brief. And I’ll be limiting my comments just to the things that I know personally that have been important for me and for George W. Bush.
[At the inauguration in 2001] George and Laura afterwards came up and thanked us for coming.
And so I — he said, now, if there’s anything I can ever do for you, let me know — which was a mistake he made. I said, Mr. President, the Carter Center has programs in 35 countries in the world, and the worst problem now is the war going on between North and South Sudan. And millions of people have been killed. And I’d like for you to help us have a peace agreement there. And in a weak moment, he said, I’ll do it. And I said, when can I meet your secretary of state and your national security adviser? He said, well, I haven’t even chosen them yet, but give us three weeks.
President Jimmy Carter
- Associated Press
- Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, arrive for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
So three weeks later, I came up and met with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and President Bush kept his promise. … And in January of 2005, there was a peace treaty between North and South Sudan that ended a war that had been going for 21 years. George W. Bush is responsible for that.
And that was the first of his great contributions to the countries in Africa.
President Bill Clinton
- Associated Press
- Former President George W. Bush, left, shakes hands with former President William J. Clinton . (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
I — you know, starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family, I had become the black sheep son. My mother told me not to talk too long today and Barbara, I will not let you down.
…There is one other connection I have that I think is largely unknown, which is that a couple of times a year in his second term, George Bush would call me just to talk politics. And a chill went up and down my spine when Laura said that all their records were digitized. Dear God, I hope there’s no record of those conversations in this vast and beautiful building.
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to anyway. Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings, and I thought they were great. Really great. And I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me — until I saw the results of your sister’s hacked emails. Those bathroom sketches are wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit.
- Associated Press
- President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for our democracy. We’ve been called “the world’s most exclusive club” — and we do have a pretty nice clubhouse. But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office. And I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you may think you’re ready to assume the office of the presidency, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours, until you’re sitting at that desk.
The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned — that being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best.
And what President Clinton said is absolutely true — to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.
But we also know something about George Bush the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.
Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home — for our families, and our economy, and our security, and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush.
President George W. Bush
- Associated Press
- Former President George W. Bush, wipes a tear after his speech during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Dallas. Left is President George H.W. Bush. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Thank you all. Please be seated. Oh, happy days. I want to thank you all for coming. Laura and I are thrilled to have so many friends — I mean, a lot of friends here to celebrate this special day. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t likely to be found at a library, much less found one. …
The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.
And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom. I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart. Freedom inspired our founders and preserved our union through civil war and secured the promise of civil rights.
Freedom sustains dissidents bound by chains, believers huddled in underground churches and voters who risk their lives to cast their ballots. Freedom unleashes creativity, rewards innovation and replaces poverty with prosperity. And ultimately, freedom lights the path to peace.
Ultimately, the success of a nation depends on the character of its citizens. As president, I had the privilege to see that character up close. I saw it in the first responders who charged up the stairs into the flames to save people’s lives from burning towers. I saw it in the Virginia Tech professor who barricaded his classroom door with his body until his students escaped to safety. I saw it in the people of New Orleans that made homemade boats to rescue their neighbors from the floods, saw it in the service members who laid down their lives to keep our country safe and to make other nations free.
I dedicate this library with an unshakable faith in the future of our country. It was the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation’s best days lie ahead. God bless….
Source: The White House, Federal News Service (www.fednews.com)