A trip is not a trip for us if we don’t stop along the way and see a place or two. And so it was, that in going to a wedding in Houston, we were able to stop not once but twice at presidential libraries: Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, and George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
Just as we stated in our post Inside Clinton Presidential Library, this tour of the Bush library comes with no strings attached: no endorsement of anyone for president, no leaning to the left or right. Just an assemblage of pics to get you inside two structures that are chock full of interesting memorabilia, gifts from all over the globe, and vignettes that reveal who these leaders of the U. S. really are.
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum resides on the Texas A & M University campus, squarely in Aggieland. How’d it get there? Shortly after Bush became commander-in-chief, Texas oil businessman Michael G. Halbouty (Class of 1930) approached the President about placing the library in College Station. The town even renamed Jersey Street as George Bush Drive in 1989. In 1991, George Bush agreed to the placement of his presidential library and museum in College Station. The structure itself is open, stately, and commanding with its high-ceiling lobby leading into one of many exhibit areas.
Greeting us at the time of our visit was The National Parks Photography Project celebrating the centennial of the National Parks Foundation: 1916 to 2016. Elegant black and white framed photos lined the walls with a quote by John Muir posted squarely at the end: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
An expansive photo of the Grand Canyon filled another wall, accompanied by elegant words from President Theodore Roosevelt written in 1903.
“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American . . . should see.”
George Bush Presidential Library has a comfortable feel to it. You walk through “stations” (I guess you can call them that) and read about phases of Bush’s political life.
Or you can gaze at the many gifts bestowed on George and his wife Barbara during their years in the White House.
Like this grazed porcelain piece, “Sevres” by Jim Caswell, presented by His Excellency Francois Mitterand, President of the French Republic, following the President’s trip to St. Martin on December 16, 1989.
An exact replica of President Bush’s Camp David with his desk, comfy chairs, and photos is open for all to see (but not to touch).
Other places, however, invite interaction. Doesn’t Bert look a bit presidential in the Oval Office where tourists can have their picture made?
And I wondered just how it would be to stand in perpetuity like this Terracotta Warrior that guards part of an international exhibit on Bush’s visit to China.
Of course, if I wanted to, I could just sit and chat with the President. He looks as if he would listen, doesn’t he?
One unexpected pleasure for me, a former English teacher, was the emphasis on the accomplishments of Barbara Pierce Bush who married George H. W. Bush on January 6, 1945. In addition to serving as First Lady and mother to George W. (Governor of Texas and 43rd U. S. President) and Jeb (Governor of Florida), Mrs. Bush championed her primary cause: the promotion of literacy for all.
A room dedicated to Mrs. Bush made us feel as if we were sitting in the Bush family den, watching TV, and gazing at books that Barbara has written or loved. (Profits from two books she co-authored, C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, benefit the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.)
At both of the presidential libraries — Clinton’s and Bush’s — we took time to watch the beautifully produced videos chronicling the childhood, college years, and White House stays of both Bill Clinton and George Bush. Coincidentally, when we visited in Fall 2015, two other people in those family videos were candidates for President: Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Jeb Bush, a Republican. How interesting to see them in their younger years!
We felt welcome at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum. And maybe it’s a credit to the volunteers who treated every person we saw that day as special guests. Along with the artifacts, videos, photography, and corners filled with information, there’s a sense that this Bush library — and perhaps all presidential libraries — belong to the people, no matter what party they ascribe to or how they regard the person who occupied the White House during their term. Presidential libraries are for all of us.
For more information:
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, 1000 George Bush Drive West, College Station, TX 77845; 979-691-4000; www.bush41.org.