All four living former presidents and the sitting president of these United States came together yesterday and demonstrated once again one of the unique strengths of this country. They took part in dedicating the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Listening to the members of this most exclusive “club” praise former President Bush brought to mind the thought: only in America. What they did was a tribute to our Constitution and the political system that has assured peaceful, orderly transition of power through elections by the people since the founding of our republic.
It was a welcome break from partisan politics to see former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton join with President Barack Obama in honoring George W. Bush. They and their wives were there along with about 10,000 of Bush’s close personal friends, dignitaries and officials.
Jimmy Carter gave this surprising tribute to Bush: “Mr. President, let me say that I am filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you’ve made to the most needy people on earth.” He referred to Bush helping secure peace between Sudan and South Sudan in 2005 and his pushing through legislation to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. Bill Clinton went further, saying that no Democratic president could have passed that legislation.
Obama was generous in praise of his predecessor. He said, “To know President George W. Bush is to like him,” and turning to Bush, he said, “Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor and most of all for your love of country, thank you very much.”
Bush, 66, after soaking up the praise and goodwill, opened his speech with a light-hearted exclamation, “Oh, happy days!” In his speech he talked about enduring principles and values vital to this nation’s success. Transparent, direct and emotional, the same as when he was president, he sounded the familiar themes of his administration.
“In a democracy,” he said, “the purpose of public service is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. .... 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,” he said. “I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart. .... Ultimately, freedom lights the path to peace.” That belief was at the core of the decision to invade Iraq and aggressively prosecute the war on terrorists.
In closing, he said, “I dedicate this library, with unshakable faith, to the future of our country. It’s the honor of a lifetime to lead a country that’s 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.”
Only in America.