2013 News Spring 2013

Founders’ Day: Welcome To Presidential History

The 43rd president of the United States was the surprise guest of honor at a colorful, music-filled, ceremony welcoming the George W. Bush Presidential Center to campus on Founders’ Day April 19. More than 3,000 SMU alumni, students, faculty and staff applauded as Bush walked down the steps of Dallas Hall to the speaker’s platform.
“You see a guy who’s grateful, really grateful, that the leadership of SMU and the Board of Trustees made it possible that Laura and I could build the Bush Presidential Center on this campus,” Bush said. “Today is a day to give thanks, and I’m the most thankful person here.”

Former President George W. Bush with student leaders (from left) new Students' Association vice president Jaywin Singh Malhi '14, secretary Katherine Ladner '14, outgoing president Alex Mace '13 and new president Ramon Trespalacios '14.
Former President George W. Bush with student leaders (from left) new Students’ Association vice president Jaywin Singh Malhi ’14, secretary Katherine Ladner ’14, outgoing president Alex Mace ’13 and new president Ramon Trespalacios ’14.

Following student performances of music specially composed for the festivities, SMU President R. Gerald Turner continued the theme of gratitude. “First, of course, to George W. Bush and Laura Bush …, we’re honored with your historic decision to place this center on our campus.” Turner also expressed his gratitude to the Bush Library Selection Committee, Bush Foundation, National Archives and Records Administration and SMU alumni, faculty, students and staff.
“The long-term impact of the Bush Presidential Center on SMU, on Dallas and on our nation can really only be imagined at this time,” Turner said. “However, if the activities of the past two years [with the Institute] are any indication, this unique national resource will help change lives around the globe.”
Other SMU and community leaders welcomed the former president, including University Park Mayor Richard B. Davis, who presented President Bush with a “Bush Ave.” street sign. Portions of Airline Road and Dublin Street near the Bush Center have been renamed Bush Avenue to commemorate the new center, located on SMU Boulevard.
SMU trustees honored George and Laura Bush (center) by acquiring a historic journal for DeGolyer Library. The presentation included (from left) Dean of Central University Libraries Gillian McCombs, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Trustee Chair Caren Prothro, and DeGolyer Director Russell Martin.
SMU trustees honored George and Laura Bush (center) by acquiring a historic journal for DeGolyer Library. The presentation included (from left) Dean of Central University Libraries Gillian McCombs, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Trustee Chair Caren Prothro, and DeGolyer Director Russell Martin.

Outgoing student body president Alex Mace ’13 presented a bound book of student letters welcoming the Bush Presidential Center to President Bush, along with a tiny Mustang cheerleader outfit for Bush’s new granddaughter, Margaret Laura Hager.
The Board of Trustees honored the Bushes by purchasing a previously unknown journal, An Account of Four Years Travels, by American explorer John Maley, which became the four millionth volume at the SMU libraries.
In addition, SMU Board of Trustees chair Caren Prothro presented a resolution from the Board. “Today is the culmination of literally years of work and collaborative efforts of thousands of individuals,” she said. “The entire world will be watching the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center next week, and we are honored that SMU is a full party in this project.”
Founders’ Weekend included “Inside SMU” informal classes, a briefing by Turner, Golden Mustang reunion, donor receptions, a picnic with faculty, an open house at the Meadows Museum and activities with SMU football players.

2013 News Spring 2013

George W. Bush Presidential Center Dedication Attracts World Attention

It came in the form of five presidents, including President Barack Obama. It was the first gathering of the so-called President’s Club in several years, bringing together Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the center of their attention and expressed admiration on this day.
It came in the form of more than 10,000 visitors from around the world, including heads of state such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
They came to help dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Center, housing the first presidential library and museum of the 21st century, the first such facility of the social media age, and the third to be located in Texas.
“This is a Texas-size party, worthy of what we’re here to do today: celebrate the legacy of the 43rd president,” Obama said. He praised Bush’s “incredible strength and resolve that came through the bullhorn after the September 11 attacks, his compassion in advancing global health, and his bipartisan efforts on education and immigration. He is a good man.”
For SMU President R. Gerald Turner, the “significance of April 25 cannot truly be described or predicted, as it opens up the home of documents and artifacts chronicling a unique time in U.S. history. No matter what one’s political views, the Bush Center establishes SMU as a major resource for presidential history. The world truly came to SMU on April 25, and it will continue to do so because of the Bush Center.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is the 13th such resource in the nation operated by the National Archives and Records Administration, a federal agency. The George W. Bush Institute, an independent public policy organization, reports to the Bush Foundation.
Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush and Carter at the dedication of the Bush Library at SMU.
PRAISE-HED3Starting April 22, the SM U campus became hospitality central hosting 12 events in five days planned by the Bush Foundation, ranging from private dinners for donors and dignitaries to the formal dedication ceremony to a massive block party co-hosted by SMU and the Bush Center. For the pageantry of the dedication, a massive stage and seating area were erected on the north side of the Bush Center along SMU Boulevard, with seating also on the nearby intramural field. SMU faculty, staff and students not attending the ceremony watched simulcasts online, in McFarlin Auditorium or at an outdoor screen.
Each former U.S. president made remarks praising Bush for progress on issues they share in common.
In his remarks, Bush turned the spotlight on SMU. “I want to thank the people who have made this project a success. President Gerald Turner runs a fantastic university … with active trustees, dedicated faculty and a student body that is awesome,” the latter remark eliciting a huge cheer from students in the audience. He continued, “Today I am proud to dedicate this center to the American people.”
To plan and execute dedication events, Bush Center staff and vendors worked with SMU departments throughout the University. The campus resembled a giant fairground, with tents, stages, outdoor viewing screens, media platforms, special fencing for security zones, and seating areas, all in various stages of assembly. More than 600 media representatives from around the world converged on campus, among them Diane Sawyer of ABC and Matt Lauer of NBC. An episode of Meet the Press was filmed in a journalism class with host David Gregory.
SMU staff made sure the campus exuded hospitality – with welcome banners, information booths, campus maps listing nearby restaurants, and numerous “comfort stations” (read: portapotties).
After the ceremony, SMU’s libraries, the Meadows Museum and other campus attractions held open houses for visitors to sample the University’s resources.
More than 200 members of the SMU community volunteered to help the Bush Center beyond performing their regular duties, while others assisted in their professional capacities. Many staff members began shifts at 4 a.m. with an uncertain end time. Because security was tight, visitors and media had to arrive hours before the 10 a.m. ceremony to accommodate inspections and screening by magnetometers.
“SMU’s goal from the start was to be a gracious host,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs. “That meant no task was too trivial. There were administrators driving golf carts to get visitors across campus. Others helped guests board shuttles at the nearby DART rail station. It was round-the-clock service, and we were honored to provide it,” said Cheves, who co-chaired SMU’s dedication event team with Tom Barry, SMU vice president for executive affairs.
One of the biggest challenges for SMU was to change campus parking assignments for most students, staff and faculty April 24-26. To accommodate those being affected, SMU rented a parking lot downtown, ran shuttles to campus and encouraged use of mass transit. The University decided not to cancel classes, but concern about crowds and traffic led some faculty to hold classes online, some staff to work from home (and some students simply to stay home). Officials in University Park, Highland Park and Dallas helped spread the word about road closures and high-traffic areas, “and our neighbors were very patient about any inconveniences,” Cheves said. “The result was an orderly, accommodating and hospitable campus that presented the best face of SMU.”
At the same time, SMU was under the watchful eyes of more than 200 law enforcement personnel from SMU police and local, state and federal agencies, in addition to the U.S. Secret Service, which supervised security for the dedication. F-16 jets and helicopters could be heard flying nearby.
The capstone event, especially for SMU community members not present at the dedication ceremony, was an evening block party on the intramural field and lighting of the Bush Center’s Freedom Hall. Those events attracted more than 13,000 students, faculty and staff and their families, SMU neighbors and Bush Center guests. Featuring games, food and entertainment by students and alumnus Jack Ingram ’93, the block party culminated with a nine-minute pyrotechnics show. It included a pattern-changing light show on the Bush Library façade. Fireworks formed a giant “W” in the sky.
A huge welcome sign on Moody garae served as the backdrop for the evening block party celebrating the dedication of the Bush Presidential Center.PREVIEW-HED
On April 29, SMU students, faculty and staff got a preview of the Bush Museum, opened exclusively for them in advance of the public opening May 1. (Admission will remain free to students, faculty and staff.) They saw museum exhibits ranging from the somber to the inspirational, as well as a lighthearted look at life in the White House. Among exhibits drawing the most attention were those on the 9/11 attacks. The museum houses floor-to-ceiling twisted and charred pieces of steel from the second tower of the World Trade Center. Visitors are encouraged to touch. Even though the Museum’s exact replica of the Oval Office represents the setting for difficult, world-changing decisions, the sunny room served as a welcome counterpoint, eliciting excitement as students took turns posing for photos in the presidential chair.
Others found the Museum’s Decision Points Theater worthy of serious attention. “You listen to the facts about a particular controversial issue and then decide how you would handle it if you were president,” said Christine Buchanan, SMU professor of biological sciences. “At first I was skeptical and suspected that it was rigged, but after watching visitors vote to disagree with what the president actually decided to do, I have more confidence in the display. It does require you to think or at least to listen.”
Buchanan hopes the Bush Museum visit will “inspire students to visit other presidential museums or read further on the issues of that administration.”
Issues that remain close to the Bushes – global health, education, economic growth and human freedom – are the focus of the Bush Institute, an independent policy organization that includes initiatives advancing women and the military. Although the Institute is housed in the same building as the Library and Museum, the Institute faces west toward campus as a symbolic gesture inviting academic interactions. The Library and Museum entrance faces north on SMU Boulevard. The 226,565-square-foot Bush Center occupies 23 acres featuring Texas prairie landscaping.
Its intersection is SMU Boulevard and the new Bush Avenue, representing renamed portions of Airline and Dublin.
The Bush Institute already has worked collaboratively with SMU. Active since 2010, the Institute has sponsored 12 symposia on campus attracting more than 2,500 participants from around the world and involving faculty and students in related disciplines. Various SMU schools and centers have co-sponsored Bush Institute programs, are engaging in joint research projects or have made concurrent appointments of Institute Fellows to the SMU faculty. President Bush has visited SMU classes on topics ranging from journalism to immigration, and more than 100 students have served as Bush Center interns in its temporary facilities.
On April 19, SMU celebrated Founders’ Day as part of its centennial commemoration. Events included an official welcome ceremony for the Bush Center, with Bush as a surprise guest. Student leaders presented Bush with 100 letters of welcome written by their classmates. “Mr. President, you probably don’t know it, but you and I have been pen pals since I was in the fifth grade,” wrote Cole Blocker ’15. “Now I have the privilege again of writing to you to thank you and Mrs. Bush for establishing the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of SMU. I believe that Mrs. Bush said it best when she said, ‘There’s nothing like a trip to the library.’”
The journey begins.
Fireworks conclude the dedication of the Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus.

2013 Alumni News Spring 2013

Alumni Play Leading Role In Capturing A National Treasure

What does it take to impress the president of the United States?

That question was foremost in the minds of SMU President R. Gerald Turner and the Board of Trustees for several years. They began to ponder it when they decided that SMU should compete to house the George W. Bush Presidential Center, including the library and museum run by the National Archives and Records Administration and the independent Bush Institute reporting to the Bush Foundation.

The quest began in December 2000, when the Board of Trustees appointed a steering committee including Turner, trustees Ray L. Hunt ’65 and Jeanne L. Phillips ’76, and the late Fred Meyer, former chair of the Texas Republican Party. Trustee and attorney Mike Boone ’63, ’67 later joined the steering committee to help guide legal negotiations once SMU was selected.

Among alumni guiding the bid for the Bush Presidential Center were (from left) Michael Boone '63, '67, chair-elect of the SMU Board of Trustees; Jeanne L. Phillips '76, trustee; and Ray L. Hunt '65, trustee.
Among alumni guiding the bid for the Bush Presidential Center were (from left) Michael Boone ’63, ’67, chair-elect of the SMU Board of Trustees; Jeanne L. Phillips ’76, trustee; and Ray L. Hunt ’65, trustee.

Hunt, Phillips and Boone represent numerous alumni who supported the process. Even though SMU leaders occupied the top of the planning pyramid, many others helped to build a foundation of support that transcended political leanings.

“It does not matter if you agree or disagree with President Bush on his programs and actions as head of state,” Hunt says. “His papers and artifacts will tell the story of a unique eight-year period in U.S. history. The Bush Presidential Center is bringing invaluable resources for research, dialogue and programming to SMU and Dallas, making us a global destination for scholars, dignitaries and visitors of all ages.”

To become that destination, SMU competed against six other institutions (see timeline), all of which received a request for proposal in July 2005 from the Bush Library Selection Committee.

As part of its proposal, SMU developed print and electronic materials to distinguish SMU from its competitors. Most had more land, but were not centrally located in a major metroplex, where the Bush Center would be an integral part of both campus and community. To show that advantage, SMU commissioned a detailed scale model of the entire campus. The 6-foot by 6-foot model was part of SMU’s proposal package traveling by truck to Washington, D.C., for presentation to the Library Selection Committee by Turner, Hunt and Phillips.

Jeanne Phillips remembers the meticulous work involved. To check on construction of the miniature campus, she visited the model makers in their Pennsylvania workshop.

Several SMY Board of Trustees chair provided leadership during the 12-year process of winning the Bush Center for SMU. They are (from Left) Carl Sewell, '66; Gerald J. Ford, '66, '69; and Caren Prothro; and Ruth Altshuler '48 (below). They worked with President R. Gerald Turner (far right) to capture the national treasure for the University.
SMU Board of Trustees chairs providing leadership during the 12-year process of winning the Bush Center for SMU are (from left) Carl Sewell, ’66; Gerald J. Ford, ’66, ’69; Caren Prothro; and Ruth Altshuler ’48 (below). They worked with President R. Gerald Turner (far right) to capture the national treasure for the University.

“There were six guys in a small warehouse gluing leaves on trees and enjoying every minute of their day. Their mastery of detail was amazing, and I enjoyed watching the campus come to life under their skilled hands. This trip fell into the category of ‘the Devil is in the details!’”

Phillips speaks from experience. In April she chaired dedication events of the Bush Center and serves with Hunt and Turner on the national finance executive committee for the Center. Previously she raised funds for the state and national campaigns of George W. Bush and oversaw three of his four inaugurations. From 2001-2003 she served as his appointee as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. She is now senior vice president at Hunt Consolidated, which Ray Hunt leads as CEO.

Ruth Altshuler '48
Ruth Altshuler ’48

Attention to detail of a different sort became SMU’s focus after December 21, 2006, when the Bush Library Selection Committee announced it was focusing solely on SMU as the possible site. That began negotiations involving, not surprisingly, more details.

Mike Boone, founding partner of Haynes and Boone, LLP, served on the Board of Trustees committee overseeing contract negotiations between SMU and the Bush Foundation. “Two law firms did the legal work while I was focused on the business terms from a trustee perspective,” he says. Working with Leon Bennett, then SMU vice president for legal affairs, Boone served over the entire 13 months that it took to negotiate the agreements, signed February 22, 2008. The result is a portfolio of contracts on issues ranging from terms of the ground lease to height limitations on surrounding campus structures, totaling 144 single-spaced pages.

The biggest challenge was developing contracts “cut out of whole cloth,” Boone says. “We had to be very thoughtful since there were no forms to be followed.”

Thoughtful and meticulous also describe Ray Hunt’s involvement with the Bush Center project. From the beginning, he and Turner immersed themselves in every detail to show that “SMU is the best place for the Bush Presidential Center to be successful,” Hunt says.

“We emphasized that our strong academic programs would contribute to the vitality of the Bush Center as a national historic treasure,” Turner says. “And we offered a resource that our competitors could not – a partnership with a dynamic city and location offering easy access to the public. We also pointed out that we have experience hosting high-profile events. We felt the entire package of SMU’s assets made us a strong competitor, but nothing could be taken for granted. We worked hard to prove our worthiness.”

As members of the Bush Foundation’s finance executive committee, Hunt and Turner had the dual challenge of helping to raise funds for the Bush Center and SMU’s Second Century Campaign, which Hunt co-chairs. He and Turner were convinced that both campaigns could succeed on parallel tracks, and they have. The Bush Foundation has surpassed its goal to raise $300 million to construct the center and over $200 million for operations, programs and endowment. “We have more than 310,000 donors to the Bush Center from all over the world,” Hunt says, “and most have had no SMU connection
until now.” And as of May 2013, SMU had raised $732.5 million toward its $750 million campaign goal.

“This means that over $1.2 billion has been raised in the past four years for programs benefiting SMU,” a figure that will grow as SMU’s campaign concludes in 2015, Hunt adds.

Boone, chair-elect of the SMU Board of Trustees, looks forward to the Bush Center’s economic impact on Dallas. “The city and our region were key to SMU securing the Presidential Center. The SMU-Dallas partnership of 100 years has worked again to the benefit of each partner.”

Phillips also credits the SMU community, “which is made up of very generous individuals,” she says. “They captured the vision of what a great Presidential Center will mean to SMU and our nation.”

Pointing to “the incredible leadership of Dr. Turner,” the impact of trustees and alumni, the strengths of the Dallas and SMU communities, and the careful consideration of the Bush Library Selection Committee, Hunt concludes: “The stars were aligned in bringing all this together.”

– Patricia Ann LaSalle M.L.A. ’05



December: SMU forms trustee and staff committees to develop a proposal.


Other competitors emerge: Texas A&M, University of Dallas, University of Texas at Austin (system), University of Texas at Arlington (with the City of Arlington), Baylor University, a West Texas coalition consisting of Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Midland College.


November 15: SMU makes its presentation to the Selection Committee in Washington, D.C., along with other competitors.


December 21: The Library Selection Committee announces it is focusing on SMU as the possible site; contract negotiations begin.


February 22: The SMU Board of Trustees and George W. Bush Foundation Board approve agreement establishing SMU as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Public announcement is made.


November 16: Groundbreaking is held for the Bush Center.


April 25: George W. Bush Presidential Center is dedicated.
May 1: George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum open to the public.

2013 News Spring 2013

A President’s Perspective

The balcony of George W. Bush’s office in the Presidential Center bearing his name provides a bird’s-eye view of the SMU campus. But the proximity transcends mere geography. It represents a partnership that promises to offer benefits to both institutional neighbors.
In an interview with SMU Magazine and The Daily Campus, the University’s student newspaper, former President Bush reflected on his hopes for the Bush Library, Museum and Institute. Following is an excerpt from that interview:
Q. What will be the impact of the Bush Center on SMU?
A. Well, I can tell you what the impact of SMU is on the Institute and Library. It gives us great credibility to be associated with a fine university. There are a lot of synergies to be achieved.  Here’s a great example. Laura is in charge of what we call the Women’s Initiative. We happen to believe that women will lead the democracy and peace movement in the Middle East. An SMU professor noted that there’s a lack of networking among women in the Middle East. And yet networking among women is important in helping to develop civil society. If women who are mistreated can find solace and aid with other women in their network, it will advance what ought to be a human objective, which is liberty. So now we’re helping set up an Egyptian women’s network. The women come here and their first classes are on the SMU campus. SMU has not only been hospitable, but it’s been of great value to us. Hopefully we will add value, too. One thing is certain. On April 25 when the Center was dedicated, the attention of the country and parts of the world was on the fact that the Bush Center is on the SMU campus. So SMU’s visibility is definitely being raised. We’ll have all kinds of interesting people coming. As more and more people discover the greatness of SMU, the University itself will benefit.

Former President George W. Bush talked to SMU Magazine and The Daily Campus about his hopes for the Bush Library, Museum and Institute.

Q. Why did you decide to have an open competition among institutions to house your presidential center?
A. It was important to see what was available. It was a big decision to locate the Center here. This is where Laura and I will spend the rest of our lives. Before we made the decision, we wanted to make sure that we explored all options. One of the things about the presidency, and I hope people recognize this through the Museum or in reading my book, is that when you’re the president, you have to weigh a lot of different opinions before you make a decision. SMU has been the perfect selection for us. And Laura went to school here . Actually, a lot of people who worked in my administration went here, notables like Harriet Miers ’67, Karen Parfitt Hughes ’77 [White House advisers] and Tony Garza ’83, [former ambassador to Mexico].
Q. What role did Mrs. Bush play?
A. When we were briefed, she was in the meetings to hear what the different options were. So it’s a joint decision. She made another significant contribution in chairing the architecture and landscape committee. And that committee made two really good selections in Robert Stern [architect] and Michael Van Valkenburgh [landscape designer]. And she’s very much involved with the Center now. Laura was an active first lady with a lot of projects. Like me, she wants to stay active. What we don’t want to do is atrophy. I don’t how many final chapters there are in my life. But we don’t want to waste a chapter.
Q. What did you hope people would feel after the dedication and their first looks at the Library and Museum?
A. [Dedicating a presidential library] is a great tradition for our country. I remember going to help open President Clinton’s library and to honor him, and then as sitting president he came to help open my dad’s library. Regardless of political party, people come and honor the person by helping to dedicate the presidential library. I’ve seen enough people who’ve come here already and go, “It’s amazing.” But my hope and dreams go way beyond the moment of dedication. I want people to be really impressed with what we do here: running an Institute that is results-oriented and focused on fundamental principles that will endure way beyond my time. It has to be focused on something bigger than a person. I keep reminding people who work here that to succeed, this can’t be about me. It’s got to be about the universality of freedom or the importance of free enterprise or the importance of good education for a free society or the notion that to whom much is given, much is required. Therefore, when we see women dying from cervical cancer in Africa, and not much is being done about it, we want to be involved. We want to contribute. My hope is that 30 years from now (let’s see, I’m 66; I’ll probably be gone), the Institute endures and is a contributor to peace and freedom.
Q. How did you feel the first time you stepped into an SMU classroom?
A. It’s funny. There was a kid on the front row who had his hat on backwards. It was an early morning class, and this kid was half asleep. He looked up and goes, “My gosh, that’s President Bush!” And I thought to myself, “There I was.” I felt youthful. What’s interesting from my perspective is what the questions are like. You can get a sense of the kind of intellectual curiosity or the level of education by listening to the questions. And they were very good questions. I appreciate curiosity.
Q. Years from now, after researchers have been using the resources of the Library, what do you hope they walk away with?
A. An objective analysis of the decisions I’ve made. It’s impossible for anybody to write an objective history until time has passed. History has a long reach. I hope they find the truth about certain aspects of the presidency, that difficult decisions were thoughtfully considered. I hope they discover we had a joyous presidency, that we had fun in the White House. Most of all, I hope they find that we were all there to serve something greater than ourselves, which is the country, not an individual, not a political party, but the country. I hope they see that we faced some pretty tough decisions and that we did our best to solve the problems. The 9/11 exhibit at the Museum is going to be very profound, very profound, and very necessary. It will be a powerful reminder of some truths. One truth is that something is going to happen that you don’t want to have happen. And when you’re the president, you have to deal with it. There’s nothing more important for a president than to protect the country from attack, and we were attacked. In the Museum there are two pieces of twisted steel where it is believed one of the planes hit the World Trade Center, and all the names of those who died are there. It’s a reminder that there is evil in the world. It’s also an important reminder that the human condition abroad matters to security at home. The ground zero part of the Museum will be the most vivid reminder of what took place on that day.
Q. Students are asking through social media how the Bush Presidential Center and SMU can move forward together.
A. I am impressed by SMU. I knew of SMU, but I really didn’t know much about the University. I have great admiration and respect for Gerald Turner. I think he’s really one of the great university presidents. I’ve spent some time in classrooms, and I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm of the students, the diversity of the student body and the intelligence of the people with whom I’ve come in contact. As I spend more time here in the Center, obviously I’ll be spending time on the SMU campus, which will give me a chance to visit more classrooms. I’ve met some faculty members, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. As SMU heads into its second 100 years, we can help SMU not only by bringing visibility, but also through the programs we’ll do at the Bush Institute. It is not a political center; we’re a policy-driven center that will help draw attention to the good works of SMU. I hope we’re helpful in defining the next 100 years.
This interview was conducted by student Rahfin Faruk, Daily Campus editor, and Patricia Ann LaSalle, SMU associate vice president for public affairs and executive editor of SMU Magazine.

2013 News Spring 2013

The Presidential Library And Museum By The Numbers


2013 News Spring 2013

Presidential Libraries: How They Are Shaping The Future

At the dedication of his presidential library on June 30, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt observed that to maintain important presidential records and archival materials, “A Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”
Following in this tradition, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened its own doors to the nation on May 1, 2013. At SMU’s Center for Presidential History, we recognize this occasion as a great gain not only for the University but also for the city of Dallas, the nation and the world.
Over the past half-century and more, presidential libraries have become our nation’s public squares beyond the confines of Washington’s beltway. They are places where great minds gather to discuss, and yes, often to debate, the central political and cultural questions of our day. As repositories of the past scattered throughout the land, they are magnets for powerful minds of all political stripes, eager to shape and to serve the nation.
Presidential libraries help us bridge the gap between history and the present. The buildings and museum exhibits physically remind us that past presidents remain profoundly relevant to our lives today. The George W. Bush Library, for example, frames its museum exhibits with four themes – freedom, responsibility, opportunity, and compassion – themes that clearly reverberate beyond the years of President Bush’s administration.
PresCtrSideA presidential library’s ongoing role is what universities have always embraced: the expansion of knowledge through an open venue for the honest and unabashed exchange of ideas. Presidential libraries also provide a common space for government and educational institutions to interact with the broader citizenry. SMU’s Center for Presidential History and the Bush Library and Museum consider this sort of public engagement vital to our missions. We already partner with the Bush Library and its Director Alan Lowe in the ongoing series of lectures “Presidential Histories and Memoirs.” These lectures have been free to the public and to date have featured world-renowned scholars on Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, George W. Bush and Calvin Coolidge. In fall 2013 discussions will focus on Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, George Washington and more.
Finally, and perhaps most important for future generations, presidential libraries act as the primary conduit of archival information between scholars and the public. As such, they serve to enhance understanding of U.S. leaders’ contributions to American history and even clarify public misconceptions about them.
For example, our understanding of President Eisenhower wholly changed once historians gained access to his administration’s records. A globally famous war hero, Ike cultivated an image of detached leadership during his presidency. He allowed others within his government to enjoy the limelight. Release of his administration’s records revealed just how in command, day-to-day and moment-to-moment, he was over his entire government, especially his foreign policy. These revelations sparked a whole new term for his management style – “the hidden hand” presidency – ultimately adopted by management experts in the decades since, to explain a powerful leader confident enough to lead from the shadows of his own government.
Over the next several decades, members of the National Archives and Records Administration will work with library archivists to process, preserve and provide access to archival materials from the Bush presidency. The George W. Bush Library holds more than 70 million textual documents, as well as millions more in electronic and multimedia records. When cleared, the materials become the sources that scholars of the Bush years will discover and use to understand our nation’s past, making Dallas and SMU a prime destination for scholars from throughout the world for generations to come.
For all these reasons, we at SMU’s Center for Presidential History look forward to the history the George W. Bush Library will tell and the public services it will offer. Even more, we look forward to the crucial role it will play in processing, preserving and providing the records necessary for understanding one of the most historic and tumultuous eight years in our nation’s history.
– Brian Franklin, associate director, SMU’s Center for Presidential History