Shoveled dirt marks beginning of construction
Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Former President George W. Bush, joined by members of his former administration, shoveled red dirt, marking the ceremonial groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University Tuesday morning.
The Center will contain his presidential library, the 13th in the United States and the first of the 21st century, as well as a museum and institute.
"Today marked another major milestone as we turn our sights to the future," Donald Evans, the chair of the George W. Bush Board of Directors, said. "Today is the culmination of a lot of planning and hard work."
More than 2,500 invited guests and some students gathered under a huge white tent on the eastern side of campus, joining former First Lady Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President of SMU R. Gerald Turner and former President of Columbia Alvaro Uribe.
Bush was welcomed by an engaged and enthusiastic crowd as he joked, "It is hard to believe there is so much excitement over breaking dirt."
He said that the groundbreaking marked the first steps of continuing the timeless principles that his administration valued, which will be advanced by the George W. Bush Institute.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the institute will seek ways of putting his principles into action, including the beliefs that this nation's power should be used to help people be free and healthy and that education is transforming.
Bush thanked the 160,000 donors of the Center, insuring the audience, as well as the contributors, that "this building was fully paid for before we broke ground."
Bush refrained from condemning any actions of President Barack Obama, saying, "The decisions of government are on another person's desk. "
Cheney, who spoke before Bush, did not resist voicing his criticism of the current administration.
Cheney drew an applause when he said, "This may be the only shovel-ready project in America," referencing what the Republicans believe to be an ineffective economic stimulus program supported by Obama.
Designed by Robert A.M Stern Associates, the 225,000 square-foot red brick and limestone presidential center is expected to open in 2013. The Center will house a library that holds the national archives, museum and a policy institute that is unique to this presidential library.
The George W. Bush Institute's goal is to pursue universal freedom as a path to peace, global health, human freedom and economic growth.
According to National Archivist David Ferriero, the library will have features that the other 12 presidential libraries do not have: nearly 80 terabytes of electronic information, including over 200 million e-mails. This makes it the first library with a major digital collection.
"This is tremendous information that is valuable for researchers and the public," Ferriero said. "We are proud to be a part of the SMU community."
While the library will display the history of the Bush presidency, the museum will demonstrate the principles that are most important to the Bush Institution: freedom, responsibility, opportunity and compassion.
These four principles will be exhibited in an innovative and interactive manner that gives visitors an inside look at the key decisions made by Bush during his presidency.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner said housing the Presidential Center "provides a unique opportunity to develop joint programs involving the students, faculty and staff with the fellows and visiting scholars of the Bush Presidential Center."
While many people gathered on SMU's campus to watch as a part of history was made, former counselor to the president Karen Hughes viewed the groundbreaking as a reunion for much of the former administration.
"This is the first time that the extended Bush family has been together since we flew home from Washington after President Obama's inauguration," said Hughes, who graduated from SMU in 1977.
She remembers being called into a meeting to discuss the possibilities of a presidential library during Bush's second term.
"To have this moment where we are actually breaking ground, makes it very tangible and very exciting," she said. "It will give people the opportunity to see documents and to think about the information Bush had when he made the decisions he did, as well as allowing the Bush administration to continue making a difference on some of the big picture policies they were most passionate about."