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Former President Bush honored at emotional ceremony renaming CIA headquarters

By Paul Courson/CNN

April 26, 1999
Web posted at: 5:53 p.m. EDT (2153 GMT)

LANGLEY, Virginia (April 26) -- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials Monday renamed the department's headquarters after former President George Bush, who became emotional during a ceremony in his honor some 22 years after serving as CIA Director.

Bush served the Ford Administration as Director of Central Intelligence during most of 1976. The current director, George Tenet, praised Bush's leadership first at the agency then later as he rose to vice president and president.

Tenet told Bush during the ceremony that it is "an honor and privilege to pay tribute to you as one of this nation's most distinguished public servants -- war hero, member of Congress, U.N. Ambassador, chief envoy to China, director of Central Intelligence, vice president, and then president of the United States."

Bush deflected the compliment by praising the members of the CIA and the honor and values he said they represent, and nearly choked up as he neared the end of his remarks.

He said others may have been more deserving of having agency headquarters named in their honor. The audience applauded warmly as he collected himself and thanked them.

The CIA headquarters area just south of Washington, D.C. includes buildings known as "new" and "old" headquarters. The new building's cornerstone was laid in a 1988 ceremony with then-Vice President Bush. The original building's cornerstone was laid in a ceremony 40 years ago this November.

The complex is now known as the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

The move was part of the fiscal 1999 Intelligence Authorization Act passed by Congress and signed into law this past October.

The former president described himself as "tranquil" at this point in his life, and suggested he may be at peace with his losing bid for a second term as chief executive.

He said wife Barbara once compared that race to a recreational parachute jump he has made since then. Bush described the ride down, and then quoted the former first lady as saying in reaction, "I haven't seen a free fall like that since the '92 election."

Describing how he would like to be remembered, Bush said "I hope it will be said of my time here and at the White House that I kept the trust, and treated my office with respect."

During Tenet's introduction, the current CIA chief quoted parts of a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton, which included some strong praise for Bush. "You stood for American leadership around the world - leadership for freedom and democracy, peace and prosperity," Tenet quoted Clinton's letter as saying.

Tenet also quoted Clinton as writing that "in my time as president, I have turned to you more than once for your wise counsel, and I have benefited greatly from it."

Bush made no reference to the Clinton letter.


House votes to rename CIA building (11-7-98)

George Bush's class reunion (11-7-97)

Keeping a promise, Bush takes the plunge (3-26-97)


Central Intelligence Agency


Monday, April 26, 1999

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