THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (College Station, Texas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 6, 1997
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT GERALD FORD, AND MRS. NANCY REAGAN AT GEORGE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY DEDICATION CEREMONY
George Bush Presidential Library Texas A&M University College Station, Texas
11:25 A.M. CST
MRS. REAGAN: Thank you very much. And thank you, Jeb. First of all, for Ronnie and me, congratulations, George and Barbara, on this beautiful library. It captures the spirit of your life, certainly, as war hero, business leader, family man, diplomat, and leader.
Many will speak today about George Bush's legacy and impressive record of achievements in far more eloquent ways than I could. So I'd like to say a few words instead about the personal side of George and Barbara.
For nearly half a century, many have described me as my husband's loyal partner -- and I'm proud to have that title. But today, I want to tell you about his other loyal partner, George Bush. (Applause.)
The Reagan-Bush partnership began in 1980, born in Detroit at the Republican National Convention, when two opponents joined forces to recapture the spirit of America. It grew because they shared a deep and abiding faith in America. And if it was fair to describe me as Ronnie's partner, it certainly is true for Barbara. She not only cared for her husband and raised five children, but has devoted herself to the very worthy cause of helping all of America's children through promoting literacy and learning. (Applause.)
One of the things I always remember, George, was the Thursday lunch that you and Ronnie shared, and never missed, regardless of war, peace, Congress, weather, whatever. (Laughter.) And, George, those luncheons meant so much to him -- not just because they were enjoyable, but because he valued your counsel so much. And in Washington, where there are no secrets, whatever went on in those luncheons stay right there.
When we came home to California after George's inauguration, Ronnie began work in his new office the next day of the busy and exciting first week. But when Thursday came around, it just didn't seem to be the same. As Ronnie sat down to his desk to have a sandwich the phone rang and the White House operator said President Bush was calling. And when he picked up the phone, Ronnie heard George's friendly voice saying that he, too, was about to eat lunch and it just wasn't the same without him. Ronnie was so touched. (Applause.) Ronnie was so touched, and I'll always remember how much that phone call meant to him.
I wish Ronnie could be here today to tell you in person what I know is true. I know he'd say, thank you, George, for your service, your steadfastness, but most of all, for being his good friend. I know Ronnie is very grateful to you, and so am I. Thank you. (Applause.)
JEB BUSH: Mrs. Reagan, I think I can speak for the thousands of people here and the millions of Americans that are praying and thinking about President Reagan, and thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen,, the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT FORD: Thank you very much, Jeb.
Mr. Presidents, our First Ladies, our distinguished guests from overseas, and all of the wonderful people here on this terrific occasion. Jeb, today is a proud occasion for all of your dad's friends, and his many, many worldwide admirers. But it is especially so for Betty and for myself.
We feel very fortunate to have enjoyed a 40-year friendship with you and Barbara. Our relationship went through many, many chapters and covered a wide variety of circumstances. We treasure, deeply treasure, the opportunities we had to work with you, to relax with you, and to make some very serious decisions over those years.
Some in this audience will recall that, as a freshman House member, I had the honor of serving in the Congress with your father, Senator Prescott Bush, whose character was as rugged as his beloved Maine coastline. Later, as the Republican Leader in the House, I welcomed you, George, his son, to Capitol Hill, where you quickly demonstrated a commitment to public service that was, and is, all in the family.
As President, I reserved some of the very toughest assignments for George and Barbara, who won countless friends for the United States in Peking before coming home to restore honor and direction to the Central Intelligence Agency at a most difficult time in our intelligence community problems.
That's not all. You may not know it, but George Bush and I have much in common. To begin with, each of us married above himself -- (laughter) -- thereby demonstrating that behind every great woman is a man wondering what on earth she ever saw in him. (Laughter and applause.)
Today, of course, is a day of glorious dedication; even more than that, it is a day of celebration. We have assembled on this great campus of this wonderful university to celebrate a life of service and the countless other lives it has touched for the better. We marvel at the courage and the patriotism that made George Bush America's youngest fighter pilot in World War II. (Applause.) We express our love and admiration for Barbara, the embodiment of the Bush family values, who is as staunch and strong in her character as she is unpretentious in her manner. (Applause.) We give thanks for the extraordinary skill with which America's 41st President guided the United States to victory in both the Gulf War and the Cold War. (Applause.)
President Bush has described himself as a man with a mission. Today, we would be perfectly justified in saying, mission accomplished; well and faithfully done. (Applause.)
In a very larger sense, Mr. President, your mission is far from over. In fact, you have still much to teach us. In an era where politics and politicians have fallen in some considerable disrepute, you remind us that the public service remains what it has always been in the Bush household -- a noble calling. (Applause.)
In your very first race for the Congress more than 30 years ago, you revealed yourself to be a leader, not a label. "Labels are for cans," you said, as a congressional candidate back in 1964. In all the years since, you have steadfastly appealed to what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."
This, too, is a cause for celebration, for, in George Bush's America, civility is never confused with weakness, nor are political differences mistaken for a holy war. In George Bush's America, there are no political enemies, merely adversaries, who may disagree with you on one day and yet be with you on the next roll call.
There are many kinds of heroism. Yours, George, is a land full of quiet heroes, men and women with a great mission of their own. You would be the very first to agree this magnificent facility that bears your name is as much a monument to them as it is to you.
Lest we forget, a presidential library is much more, much more than a library. It's a classroom of democracy, a place to find inspiration as well as information. Visitors to this magnificent facility, this library, will find both. They will be renewed in their democratic faith even as they are reminded of those virtues synonymous with George and Barbara Bush -- with generosity, with sacrifice, integrity and compassion and unabashed love of our great country. (Applause.)
There may be some who call these old-fashioned virtues. In George Bush's America, they never go out of style, never out of fashion.
God bless you, Mr. President. (Applause.) You and Barbara will forever have our faith and trust and support. You make us all proud to be one of your countrymen. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
JEB BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CARTER: Thank you. Fellow members of a very small fraternity -- (laughter) -- friends and associates of a great former President, it's an honor for me and Rosalyn to be here today to join in this celebration of a wonderful achievement -- one of many, obviously, in the lives of George and Barbara Bush.
In thinking about our small fraternity, I thought I'd list a few things we have in common -- some of which may be of surprise to you; others are not. First of all, anyone who runs for President is certainly adequately endowed with both ambition and ego. Sometimes, there are factors that occur in our lives, unanticipated factors, that tend to reduce the level of ego. I recall, for instance, the elections of 1976 and 1980, and 1992. (Laughter.)
Others are brought about by members of our own family. I remember when I was inaugurated -- some of you who may be older remember those ancient days -- I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, watched the parade go by, and then my family walked over toward the White House. My mother was with us, and so was my press secretary, Jody Powell. The members of a news media wanted to have an interview, obviously, with the new First Family. And Jody Powell, my press secretary, said nobody talks to news reporters. And my mother typically said, Jody, you can go to hell, I'm talking to whom I please. (Laughter.) And the first question my mother got from the news reporters was, Miss Lillian, aren't you proud of your son? And Mama said, which one? (Laughter and applause.)
So, all of us have a tendency, as you know, to realize at some stage in our lives that America is a country within which the highest possible achievement is to be a citizen of the United States. (Applause.)
We also have something else in common. As you know, America is a melting pot -- or rather better, I would say a mosaic -- where people from different countries come here and live and find a wonderful life. This year, earlier, there was a book published that's been interesting to me to some degree, and that is "Ancestors of the President." And if you thumb through this book you'll find that a lot of us are related to each other. (Laughter.)
President Ford and I, for instance, share three former Presidents with whom we are related -- the two Harrisons and one more -- President Bush and President Ford and I all share a cousinship with President Richard Nixon. So we have not only the heritage of the White House, we also have the heritage of common family ties.
Another thing that we share is a need to earn a living after we leave the White House. Rosalyn and I make most of our income by writing books. I understand that President Bush is soon going to come out with a book coauthored by Brent Scowcroft. Rosalyn asked me to announce, by the way, that our books are still on sale. (Laughter and applause.)
Another thing that we inherit is a constant series of common opportunities or challenges. All of us recall the great moment in history when Harry Truman within a few minutes recognized the new nation of Israel. And since then, of course, all of us on this stage have struggled to bring peace, harmony to the people who live in the Middle East.
Harry Truman also was deeply involved, and some of us have inherited the problem of the Korean Peninsula. John Kennedy faced, as all of us have faced since then, with the challenge of Cuba. And I'm sure Bill Clinton appreciates inheriting from George Bush the challenge of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
So the point is that as you go down through history, even back earlier in this century, you'll find that Presidents of the United States not only have to face similar challenges, similar problems, but we also face the overriding greatness of the same nation -- a nation endowed with unlimited natural resources, unlimited human resources, unlimited prestige around the world. So we've had a natural asset as we've served at different times, but in very similar circumstances in the Oval Office in our great country.
One other point I'll make, and that is perhaps one of the most serious challenges, particularly for a former President, and that is to raise money to build a presidential library. As many of you may not know, all the funds that are invested in presidential libraries, none of it comes from the federal government. We have to raise the money and then turn over the library to the federal government. I think George Bush has done an absolutely indescribably good job in providing for the people of America one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. (Applause.)
And as he has excelled as a congressman, as a director of the CIA, as a Cabinet member, as our representative in the People's Republic of China, as Vice President and as President, I'm sure that he's going to be extraordinarily successful in his years beyond the White House -- which, George, I hope that you and Barbara will enjoy many, many more as the years go by. Thank you for letting us be part of a wonderful ceremony. (Applause.)
JEB BUSH: All the former Presidents also seem to have a sense of humor in common, as well, President Carter. Thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs. Ford, President and Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Reagan, Mrs. Johnson, David and Julie Eisenhower, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Reverend Graham, Governor and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Quayle; and to all the foreign dignitaries and American officials who are here.
The sun is shining on Texas A&M today. (Applause.) And the sun is shining on America today. You know, we have an interesting country, with a lot of religious, racial and political diversity. Once in a while, we all get together. This morning, I think it's fair to say that all Americans are united in tribute to President George Bush for his lifetime of service to America. (Applause.)
I enjoyed immensely listening to the previous speakers. When Mrs. Reagan spoke -- I hope some day Al Gore will be glad that we had lunch once a week. (Laughter.) When President Ford spoke, I said, I hope I will look that good when I am 25 years younger than he is. (Laughter.) When President Carter spoke, I thought, thank goodness he just reminded the whole world that Presidents have to raise all the money for their libraries. (Laughter.)
In 1942, young George Bush heard Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, challenge his generation to be -- and I quote -- "be brave without being brutal; self-confident without boasting; part of an irresistible might, but without losing faith in individual liberty." President Bush not only heard those words, he has lived them. And he has rallied his fellow citizens to serve as well in their communities, for their country and for the cause of democracy around the world.
There are many things that I, not only as President, but as a citizen, am grateful to George and Barbara Bush for. I'd like to just mention a few today. As President and afterward, he has worked to ensure that A Thousand Points of Light is not merely a striking image, but a lasting legacy. I thank him for that initiative and for cochairing the President's Summit on Service. (Applause.)
As President, he summoned all the governors, including me, to the University of Virginia for a Summit on Education, where we stayed up more than half the night in a totally bipartisan fashion to write national education goals for our country. And when he was President, Mrs. Bush espoused the importance of literacy and the importance of citizens volunteering to make sure all our children can read. I thought of that when we launched our America Reads initiative, which now has tens of thousands of college students at hundreds of universities all across America, trying to do what Barbara Bush always said we should to do make sure every one of our fellow citizens could read and read well. And I thank them both for that. (Applause.)
As President and afterward, President Bush stood for American leadership for peace and prosperity, for freedom and democracy. He was the last President of the Cold War, but he knew that American responsibility could not end with the Cold War. And he showed us that in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The vigilance President Bush displayed in dealing with Iraq, as we all know, is required again today. And I believe the American people support that vigilance, thanks in no small measure to your example not so long ago. And I thank you for that, Mr. President. (Applause.)
As President and afterward, President Bush pushed America to embrace new alliances of trade as instruments of both economic growth and growing democracy. He launched NAFTA and the talks that led to the World Trade Organization. I was proud to complete those efforts, and I am very grateful for the support he continues to give, along with our other former Presidents, to the imperative of American leadership in expanding alliances of trade -- not only for our economic welfare, but to support our political ideals.
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on whether to extend fast track authority to negotiate trade agreements. I hope Congress will follow the lead that President Bush and the other former Presidents have set to expand trade and our vital horizons in the 21st century. I thank you, Mr. President, for that. (Applause.)
For more than four and a half years now, even though our relationship began under somewhat unusual circumstances, I have been very grateful that whenever I call on President Bush, he was always there with wise counsel and, when he agreed, with public support. It's hard to express to someone who hasn't experienced it what it means in a moment of difficulty to be able to call someone who, first of all, knows exactly what you're up against, and secondly will tell you the truth. And he has done that time and time again. I am persuaded that the country is better off because of it. And I thank you, Mr. President, for your counsel and your assistance. (Applause.)
This magnificent library will be a place for scholars who try to understand what has happened in some of America's most important years. It's a place for citizens who want to know right now what went on in the life and career of George Bush. It's also a place from which any person would draw enormous inspiration. A place for the reaffirmation of our faith in America.
Benjamin Franklin told our Constitutional Convention, "The first man put at the helm will be a good one, but no one knows what sort will come afterward." Mr. President, I think if Benjamin Franklin were here today, he would say that in George Bush, America has had a good man whose decency and devotion have served our country well. And that is the story this library will tell to generations to come. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
JEB BUSH: The next speaker is perhaps the most caring, loving father and grandfather a family could ever have. In fact, I'm confident that that's the case. The 41st President of the United States, my dad, George Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much for that warm welcome. Thank you so much, on this beautiful Aggie day, thank you. (Applause.) I am very grateful to all of you for being here. My friends from overseas; those in this rather unique club of former Presidents -- and, of course, deeply honored that President Clinton, who has enormous problems facing him, one of which -- two of which he referred to today -- is here with us, in spite of that busy agenda. He and Hillary honor us by their presence.
I couldn't help but note when Gerry -- when President Ford talked about different things, he mentioned appointments. I am grateful to him for appointing me to be the Director of CIA, to sending me to China. I am very grateful, of course, to my former colleague and esteemed friend, Ronald Reagan -- and, Nancy, we were so honored to have you with us today. (Applause.) Grateful to him for giving me a shot at this job by naming me to be the vice presidential nominee. And, of course, I'm very grateful to President Clinton, who, fair and square, saw to it that I have a wonderful private life. (Laughter.)
And let me thank Dr. Ray Bowen and others here from the A&M fraternity, all of whom made this magnificent facility possible. In just a few minutes, this magnificent structure, as President Jimmy Carter said, paid for with private funds, will be handed over to former Governor John Carlin, the Archivist of the United States, whereupon his capable team will operate it in this marvelous setting right here on this Texas A&M campus on behalf of the American people. (Applause.)
Clearly, it goes without saying that a lot of people have put a lot of hard work on this project, and today marks the end of three years of painstaking effort. And finally the exhibits are in place and the paint is dried, and an eager library staff awaits its first guests.
There is one thing left for me to do -- apologize to my mother. My mother taught my siblings and me never to be what she called a "braggadocio." We had to go up and look up what that meant. And then we tried to do what she taught. Mother always lectured us in a kinder and gentler way against using the big "I". And I'm afraid that some of these exhibits here today might violate her "no bragging" rule. I just hope that in some ways we have given proper credit to all with whom I've worked during every chapter of my life.
I had a superb Cabinet, many of whom are here; I had a superb Vice President, Dan Quayle, who is sitting here. (Applause.) And I am very grateful to the Cabinet, to the Vice President and, of course, to the governors who turned out here today.
Surrounded by family and friends, it's tempting to dwell on the past, to reflect and reminisce about a superb team, steadfast allies, multitude of friends, and the strength of family; about the honor of serving with the finest men and women to wear our uniform, whose liberation of Kuwait lifted our nation; and the undaunted courage of people the world over who cast aside the yolk of tyranny and totalitarianism, risking all for liberty. Today, one thing is for sure, I did not lack for inspiration or support during those four years.
As to whether we got some things right or could have done some things better, the beautiful thing about this library and the 40 million documents here is that history can make that determination, rendering its judgment based on these documents and other materials safeguarded in this building behind us.
And more important to me is how these records will serve to educate future generations of Americans and give them a broader understanding of how their government responded in the way it did to the challenges it faced at a watershed moment in history. And hopefully, the insights gained and the impressions left by the events on display here will do for our visitors what they have done for those who lived them -- make deeper our appreciation for the blessings of freedom and democracy, and make stronger our devotion to them.
And, of course, this distinguished gathering of Americans is a fitting tribute to the ideals for which America stands. Each reunion of First Families is a very special one, and I am indebted for the kindness of the men and women here with us today. I mention Nancy Reagan, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the number one Texan, Lady Bird Johnson, whom we're so honored to have with us today. (Applause.) And, of course, another friend to all Presidents, to all America, our beloved pastor, Billy Graham. (Applause.)
As each can readily attest, the honor of serving in and around the presidency is as overwhelming as the responsibility. Those of us who have been privileged to occupy that high office share a common bond. We are part of a continuum, one that spans 208 years of triumph and tribulation, from Washington and the birth of a nation to our defining hour under Lincoln, to the modern era and those represented here.
A man born to lead, Dwight Eisenhower, turned the tide of history against tyranny. And it's wonderful to see David here today. (Applause.) President Kennedy inspired a new generation to serve others and stared the Soviets down at the brink of nuclear war. And, Caroline, thank you very much for being with us today. (Applause.)
I mentioned Lady Bird, but it was a fellow Texan, LBJ, who steadied a shocked and shaken America and launched an ambitious agenda to keep us moving forward. And Richard Nixon demonstrated his visionary statesmanship by opening the door to China. And, Julie, we are pleased you are with us here today. (Applause.)
And by the strength of his innate decency, President Ford healed a nation, torn. And we're honored that he and Betty are with us. (Applause.)
And Jimmy Carter, a true man of faith, sowed peace where enmities are as old as the clashing of swords. And thank you, sir, and Rosalyn, for being with us here. (Applause.)
And Ronald Reagan's unfailing optimism belied a fierce commitment to freedom -- a personal commitment, which tipped the balance of the Cold War. And I learned a lot from this most honorable of men. We miss him and we wish him well. (Applause.)
And President Clinton has guided us through the turbulence and unpredictability of this new era, and kept our nation going strong. And in the process, he and Mrs. Clinton have been exceptionally gracious to Barbara and to me. And we are very honored and happy that they are with us today. And I know I speak for everybody in the Texas A&M family. (Applause.)
And thanks to the leadership of these men, the remarkable women who served at their side, and the stalwart friendship of our allies, some of whom are here and have been introduced. Like every day, it's a day of celebration, and the superpower struggle is no more. The Berlin Wall is gone. Indeed, the prospects for peace and prosperity have never been better; the outlook for our kids and our grandkids never brighter.
And Barbara and I will never, ever adequately be able to thank the American people, especially the people of Texas, for the many opportunities that they have afforded us to serve our nation. And to everyone who has stood by us, from those who helped us climb the highest political mountain in the world, to those who helped make this day possible, the gratitude in our hearts knows no bounds.
And I have, thanks to President Ford and President Reagan and President Nixon, and then to the electorate, been privileged to hold a number of high-level posts over the years. But now that my political days are over, I can honestly say that the three most rewarding titles bestowed upon me are the three that I've got left -- a husband, a father and a granddad. (Applause.) And to that, I can only add the rich blessings of friendship.
I don't know if Lou Gehrig, my great idol, said it first, but I do know that he said it best -- today, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. (Applause.)
JEB BUSH: Dad, I think your mom, Ganny, is up in heaven right now and she'll give you a break today. I think you're okay. I think you'll be fine. (Laughter.)
I am pleased to be joined by the honorable John W. Carlin, the Archivist of the United States.
John, as President of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation, I hereby present to you and to the American people the key to the George Bush Presidential Library Museum. (Applause.)
END 12:07 P.M. CST