Skip to main content

5 presidents on hand for Bush Center dedication

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Former Presidents Carter and Clinton praise Bush for his initiatives in Africa
  • NEW: Bush says the country's greatest days lie ahead
  • NEW: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is dedicated
  • Bush tells CNN he is aware it will rekindle debates about his legacy

Dallas (CNN) -- Some may disagree whether George W. Bush was a "uniter, not a divider," as he liked to say, but he did get all five living presidents together for the dedication of his presidential library.

At Thursday's event in Dallas, Democratic former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton praised Bush for his initiatives in Africa, and Bush defended his record.

"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," Bush said at the ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. "My deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom."

Bush has said he is aware that the opening of his presidential library would reopen debates over the Iraq War and the policies he pursued after the September 11 terrorist attacks. History will show, he said at the dedication, that he always stuck by his convictions.

"A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors and the strong protect the weak and public policies promote private compassion," Bush said. "As president, I tried to act on these principles every day. It wasn't always easy and certainly wasn't always popular ... but when future generations come to this library to study this administration, they're going to find out that we stayed true to our convictions."

Carter told a story of how he asked, on Bush's inauguration day, for a meeting to talk about a civil war in Sudan that was entering its second decade. Bush kept his word and acted, Carter said.

President Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive on stage for the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony in Dallas, on April 25. Only a few times in history have three or more American presidents been photographed together. Click through to see some of those historic moments. President Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive on stage for the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony in Dallas, on April 25. Only a few times in history have three or more American presidents been photographed together. Click through to see some of those historic moments.
The Presidents club
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
Photos: The Presidents club Photos: The Presidents club
Recalling 43: 'Bush was a terrific boss'
Time lapse of Bush library construction
First lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush and former President George W. Bush attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in Dallas. Republicans and Democrats alike and world leaders were in attendance during the official dedication of the facility. First lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush and former President George W. Bush attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in Dallas. Republicans and Democrats alike and world leaders were in attendance during the official dedication of the facility.
The George W. Bush Presidential Center
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: George W. Bush Center Photos: George W. Bush Center

"In January of 2005, there was a peace treaty between north and south Sudan that ended a war that had been going on for 20 years," Carter said. "George W. Bush is responsible for that."

The last time the five living presidents were together was right before President Obama took office. It is a rare and special occurrence when the five gather, Obama said.

"This is a Texas-sized party," Obama said. "When all the former living presidents are all together, it is a special day for our democracy."

The presidents on the stage definitely differed on many policy matters, but they all share one quality, Obama said: They did what they believe is right.

"That's what President George W. Bush chose to do," Obama said.

Bush became a little emotional as he closed his speech: "Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation's best days lie ahead."

The center's library and museum take visitors through the turning points of Bush's two terms. The first exhibits recall the 43rd president's initial priorities on education, faith-based community initiatives and tax cuts. And they show how the September 11 terrorist attacks changed everything.

Bush 43: 'History will ultimately judge'

At one exhibit, the bright red dress that first lady Laura Bush wore to her husband's first state dinner, just six days before 9/11, stands in contrast to the next, most talked-about artifact in the museum: the twisted hulk of two beams from the World Trade Center.

In an interview with CNN's John King, the former president said he knows that the center's dedication will rekindle the debate about his presidency, and he conceded the library is in part an effort by him and supporters to influence history's verdict.

But he predicted visitors would find it "more objective" than they might have imagined, and he showed little interest in revisiting flashpoints like Iraq, Hurricane Katrina or the 2008 financial crisis, or the scorn with which many look back at the Bush presidency.

A glimpse at a White House before everything changed

Clinton pokes fun at Bush's paintings
George W. Bush: Pet portrait painter
George W. Bush at Yale University, circa 1964-1968. George W. Bush at Yale University, circa 1964-1968.
George W. Bush's life, legacy
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: George W. Bush\'s life, legacy Photos: George W. Bush's life, legacy

"You know, I'm really not that concerned about why people did what during my presidency," he said. "I'm more concerned about being an effective person for the rest of my life.

"I know this: that Laura and I gave the presidency eight years of our life. We gave it our all. Made the best judgment calls I could. I didn't compromise my principles. And I'm a content man. And I am excited about what we're going to do here."

As the son of another former president, Bush said he wouldn't mind seeing his brother Jeb Bush run for the highest office.

If he could make the decision for Jeb, he would tell him to run for president, Bush said.

But in an interview Thursday on NBC's "Today," former first lady Barbara Bush said that while Jeb Bush is able to do the job, she would like to see other families in the White House.

"There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes," she said.

In addition to the library and museum, the Presidential Center includes the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy institute.

By the numbers: Presidential libraries

CNN's Mariano Castillo wrote and reported this story in Atlanta. CNN's John King and Brianna Keilar contributed from Dallas.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 2332 GMT (0732 HKT)
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0613 GMT (1413 HKT)
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT