Honored to Serve
From Dallas, Texas
Dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library
A beautiful day in Dallas -- fair skies, temps in the high 60s - thousands of people came out to witness something that is so uniquely American that I'm not certain it survives translation into other languages.
The dedication of a Presidential library is not a regular or usual event. There are only 13 such libraries in the Presidential library system. The first was Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the most recent is George W. Bush.
Other private or non-profit organizations house the collected papers and memorabilia from previous Presidents but now the process is more systematized.
The way these work - at least in modern times - is a private foundation is formed to pay for the construction of the facility the title and deed to which is transferred to the Archivist of the United States on an assigned date.
The official transfer of the George W. Bush library was one of the events that took place here Thursday morning.
What made this even more unique was the gathering of four ex-Presidents and their wives along with President and Mrs. Obama.
I was interviewed by the local Fox affiliate and the reporter asked my why I came here all the way from Washington, DC.
I said that in addition to honoring President Bush, it was an opportunity for the thousands of people who worked in his administrations to get together - probably for the last time - and catch up.
I said that working for an American President is an experience shared by very few people. The long hours, the short pay, and time away from home are all balanced by the opportunity to serve the people of the United States.
I said that, like being in the military and in a war zone, you can describe it to someone, but unless they shared the experience it is very difficult to transfer the emotion. Every war novel and war movie ever produced has attempted to do that.
He asked me about the five Presidents being together on the stage in front of the Library.
I said (incorrectly upon further review) that being a living President of the United States is to be a member of the most exclusive club in the world.
There is one club even more exclusive: Living Popes.
I went on to say that it was important for the nation and the world to see those men and women together celebrating something positive. With the anger between the parties and the harsh language that accompanies it; pushed out through cable news and social media, it might be surprising to many people around the world to see that they can not only sit together, but say nice things about one another.
I don't think there will be any shift in rhetoric or policy as the result of the activity on the campus of Southern Methodist University Thursday morning; but for 90 minutes the five living leaders of a great nation and many of the people who served in the administration of at least one of them, paused and reflected on the high points, the low points, the hazards, the rewards, and the honor of serving America.
As President George W. Bush said in his remarks:
"In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves.
"The political winds blow left and right, polls rise and fall, supporters come and go. But in the end leaders are defined by the convictions that they hold."
"I will always believe that our nation's best days lie ahead."
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Wikipedia page about Presidential libraries and to the NY Times' summary of the day's events. Also a topic-appropriate and very telling Mullfoto from the Library event.