Former President George W. Bush told an SMU audience Nov. 12 that the George W. Bush Institute will focus on education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. The Institute will be part of the Bush Presidential Center, which will include the presidential library and museum.
Construction on the center will begin in fall 2010, but the institute’s first initiatives are under way with the selection of key leaders and plans for conferences beginning this spring.
“The Institute will be a vital hub of critical thought and practical action,” Bush told about 1,500 SMU faculty, students, staff and presidential library donors at McFarlin Auditorium. “It will be independent, nonpartisan and designed to make an impact in the world.”
The Institute first will focus on education reform, beginning with the appointment of nationally renowned education scholar James Guthrie to serve as the institute’s director of education policy studies; he will serve as senior fellow at the institute. Simultaneously, SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development announced that he will hold a concurrent appointment as professor in the school, the first such appointment to be made between SMU and the Bush Institute.
Guthrie is currently Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy and director of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Vanderbilt University. He joins the Institute and the University on Jan. 1, 2010
Sandy Kress, national education leader and former Dallas Independent School District board chair, also will serve as education fellow at the Institute, directing education policy development and outreach.
Guthrie and Kress will lead a national education conference in March 2010 on education leadership, policy and school reform.
In addition, as part of the Bush Institute’s focus on economic growth, including energy independence, the institute will partner with the Maguire Energy Institute in Cox School of Business to host an April 2010 conference focused on the benefits of natural gas production in the United States.
In the area of global health, Bush announced the appointment of Ambassador Mark Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator from 2006 to 2009, as the institute’s first global health fellow. Dr. Dybul will retain his position as distinguished scholar at Georgetown University. In both capacities he will research strategies to provide comprehensive health services to mothers, newborns and children in impoverished African and Asian countries.
“This is an area where research is urgently needed,” Bush said. “I’ve charged Mark with saving as many lives as quickly as possible.”
The institute will support human freedom with the creation of the Freedom Collection, a repository of video, oral and written histories documenting freedom movements around the world. The collection will serve as a resource for scholars, activists and policymakers interested in studying the advance of human liberty, Bush said.
“With the Freedom Collection, we will continue our legacy of supporting advocates for freedom around the world,” Bush said.
Oscar Morales Guevara will serve as the institute’s fellow in human freedom. He launched an international Internet movement in 2008 with fellow Colombians against the narco-terrorist network known as FARC.
Within all four areas of focus, the Bush Institute will integrate the involvement of women and social entrepreneurs. In remarks following those of her husband, former First Lady Laura Bush, who will lead the institute’s women’s initiative, said, “Research shows that when you educate and empower women, you improve nearly every aspect of society.”
The Institute will be home to the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, which will focus on literacy efforts at early- and adult-education levels for women in the United States and Afghanistan. The council plans a March conference on Afghan literacy.
“Education, global health, freedom and economic growth are areas that have been important to President and Mrs. Bush since President Bush first sought office as governor and then president,” said Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation Board of Directors. “The purpose of the institute is to expand on these principles.”
Bush ended by pledging that “together, the Bush Presidential Center and SMU will help this campus continue to grow as a great university. We will be a constructive member of a vibrant Dallas community. And we will contribute to the national dialogue in a positive way for years to come. We are proud to call SMU home.”