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Presidents help Bush dedicate library

Associated Press | 5/5/2013, 8:21 a.m. | Updated on 5/6/2013, 9:11 a.m.
George W. Bush marked his unofficial return to the public eye at the dedication of his presidential library, basking in ...
President Barack Obama stands with former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University, April 25 – Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP Associated Press

The presidents were cheered by a crowd of former White House officials and world leaders as they took the stage together to open the dedication.

It was a day for family and sentimentality, Bush choking up with emotion at the conclusion of his remarks.

The 43rd president singled out his 88-year-old father – the 41st president – to tell him: “Fory-one, it is awesome that you are here today.”

The elder Bush, wearing jaunty pink socks, spoke for less than a minute from his wheelchair, then turned to his son and quipped, “Too long?” He has a form of Parkinson’s disease and has been hospitalized recently for bronchitis.

If politics was absent from the podium on Thursday, it was still a prominent subtext.

George W. Bush in recent days played up the idea of his younger brother, the former governor of Florida, seeking the White House, telling C-SPAN, “My first advice is: Run.”

Their mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, did the opposite.

“We’ve had enough Bushes,” she said Thursday on NBC’s Today show.

The presidential center at Southern Methodist University includes a library, museum and policy institute. It contains more than 70 million pages of paper records, 200 million emails, 4 million digital photos and 43,000 artifacts. Bush’s library will feature the largest digital holdings of any of the 13 presidential libraries under the auspices of the National Archives and Records Administration.

A full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it looked during Bush’s tenure sits on the campus, as does a piece of steel from the World Trade Center and the bullhorn that Bush used to punctuate the chaos at ground zero three days after Sept. 11.

In the museum, visitors can gaze at a container of chads – the remnants of the famous Florida punch card ballots that played a pivotal role in the contested 2000 election that sent Bush to the White House.