As we slowly work our way north for Lee’s summer job, we decided to take some time and visit some Presidential Libraries along the way. Thankfully there are three along our route, although the George Bush Sr library in College Station, Texas was a little out of the way. The first question you may have is why College Station, Texas. It turns out that the college lobbied for the honor. Consequently the library is in a beautiful spot and has a large piece of property attached to it.
The library itself is only $9 and well worth the ticket. It is a large building that includes his presidential limo, a recreation of his oval office, a piece of the Berlin wall, and artifacts from the first Gulf War.
The library also walked through his life and I will say I had trouble with the layout and following the chronology. I actually missed a big section by mistake and had to go back and find it at the end. The beginning of his life was extremely well done and very interesting, I learned quite a bit about how he was raised and his life before becoming president. In particular I found his WWII activities of interest. He enlisted at the age of 18 and was an aerial photographer and pilot. In the course of his service he had a couple of near death experiences.
Those experiences, especially losing his crew when his plane was downed, made him believe that God had saved him for a special purpose. This belief drove his actions, when the war was over and he went to school at Yale and later started an oil drilling company settling in Odessa, Texas. Eventually he ran as a Republican in largely Democratic Texas eventually becoming a congressman.
Although his father was a Senator in Connecticut the Bush family became true Texans, and George Sr. held a variety of high profile positions. He was on the Ways and Means Committee, Chair of the RNC, United State Ambassador to the UN, and Lead Diplomat to China. After the Watergate Scandal (which he was not aware of), President Ford sent him to China and then he became the Director of the CIA. I found the China information very interesting but was disappointed by how little there was on his time at the CIA. There was also very little information on his time as Vie President, although there was brief mention of the Iran Contra Scandal.
Finally, I reached his Presidency and I will say I felt a little uncomfortable as I walked through this section. This is the first Presidential library we had seen where I was an adult during the presidency and I had vivid memories walking through the exhibits. For instance I remember exactly where Lee and I were when the Gulf War was announced (The Mansfield Diner) and as parents of young children I remember how anxious we all were. The similarities to these actions to what is happening in Ukraine today didn’t help and I had a very complex set of emotions as I walked through the remainder of the building. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it did catch me by surprise.
It wasn’t all serious though and there was a great exhibit on his “crazy socks” near the end along with a stunning pair of presidential cowboy boots. I really love seeing those.
My largest disappointment was how little there was on Barbara Bush. Since she was alive when the library was made, I am sure this was by choice, but I would have loved to have seen more about her. In my opinion the displays really didn’t do justice to her work as First Lady and I hope in the future they add more information about her.
Definitely recommend visiting although the town of College Station doesn’t have much else to see. Lee is making a two hour drive down to Houston to see NASA though so the trip for us was totally worth it.
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