November 29, 2013

11/1/13 - George Bush Presidential Library

Presidential Libraries are a rather unique national monument.  Historically, the ex-President, not the government,  "owned" all the documentation from his term of office.  Now the ex-President is responsible for raising the funds to get the library built and set up to store the stuff, then turns over the running of the place to the government through the National Archives.

Presidential Libraries have personalities as varied as the men they memorialize.  I say that with all the authority of one who has visited 1.1 of them. (Because of the sequester, we were only in the lobby the Clinton Library, so it hardly counts--just enough to give me an impression of what it is.  We did watch the video and see his limo.)
First, you have to get into the right frame of mind.  Whatever your politics, each president is part of the history of the US.  We've seen Civil War battlefields on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, and each has a leaning toward the Union or the Confederacy.  You take them as they are, even if you disagree with the viewpoint, it's history and part of the legacy of the country.  So it is with the leaders.

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is built on the campus of Texas A&M.  Bush didn't go to school there--he just liked the attitude of the Aggies and the people of that part of Texas.  We've been in Texas long enough to see how excited Texans get about college football, so I think I get it.  You can look across the back lawn and see the stadium.
The interior is a rather clever maze, a guide through George Bush's life and political career.  You learn things you didn't know about him, and remember things you'd heard and forgotten.  It's a lot more personal than just watching the news or reading something in Time magazine.  Then you start thinking about the things that aren't there.  Just ignore the spin and enjoy the tour.
Lobby and store at George Bush Library
Presidential limosine


Bush flew a plane like this in WWII
There are displays about his early life, family, how he met Barbara.  This Studebaker is like the one they owned when they first got married.
In the Oval Office, the docent let us sit at the replica of his desk, showed us the baseball mitt he kept in the drawer, told us interesting anecdotes about what's on display.  She was a kick!  It was worth going to just talk to her.

There's an exhibit with displays of Gifts of State, which didn't photograph well for me except for this Mother of Pearl Inlay box. (The gifts belong to the country--not the President.  I asked.)

The Berlin Wall came down during Bush's administration; this is a chunk of it.  (As a semi-relevant aside, my first husband was in the Army and stationed in Germany.  We went to Berlin, took a bus tour into East Berlin, passing through Checkpoint Charlie.  It was 1969 and scary.)
Graffiti on West Berlin side
This side was facing East Berlin
Outside is a sculpture of stampeding horses, jumping over the fallen wall, symbolic of the end of the Cold War.  When I first saw it, I thought the graffiti was a defacement of this sculpture, but the sculptor replicated them from the wall itself.
The Day The Wall Came Down, A Monument to Freedom
by Veryl Goodnight
Gulf War Situation Room
There are lots of other exhibits:  the Congressional years, Bush as VP, displays about the First Lady.  there are displays the White House Dining Room, Camp David, Desert Storm.
George in the President's Chair
I asked one of the docents about the Library upstairs.  It's not like a public library where you can browse the shelves.  You have to have a specific research reason, fill out forms, get authorization.  She said many of the 44 million documents aren't completely organized and are still stored haphazardly in boxes stacked all over the place.  

Presidential Museums are like many museums.  You can't possibly take it all in on one visit.  Docents help point you to the really interesting parts and often share anecdotes that help you remember what you saw.  They're trained to be non-political, but you're not going to find a Democrat volunteering at Bush's Pesidential Library!

More pictures here:  George Bush Presidential Library

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