Our next Presidential library to visit was in Dallas and was the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It was interesting visiting the two Bush’s back to back and seeing the differences. Because George W. is alive there was no gravesite to visit, but we were told that they were preparing the space. I appreciate the forethought in preparing a burial space in advance, but that must be weird to design your Presidential burial site when alive. As we have learned though, several presidents (including George Washington) were very specific in their instructions regarding their burial and since it is the nation’s history and their final resting place it is good that they can weigh in.
Like his father’s, the GW Bush museum is located on a college campus, in this case it was Southern Methodist University. It is a beautiful campus and the library has a central location. Again, we went at noon on Sunday (this time slot has been great for our visits) so parking wasn’t an issue, but it is a relatively small lot and there is a fee for parking. In addition the library costs $26, which we both thought was on the steep side. We paid it though, as this visit was the main reason we came to Dallas and went through security into a beautiful foyer.
Once again there was minimal information about his pre-presidential life which I did find a little disappointing. I did learn that GW was the first President to play little league and he was a lifelong baseball fan. He had his wonderful baseball collection on display and even a pair of Cowboy boots with a baseball logo on them.
They talked a little bit about the election and the electoral map, but again the information was somewhat sparse. It was a beautiful building though with huge photos and the displays were very well done. It has been interesting with these modern presidents to see what they choose to focus on and in all fairness with an eight year presidency lots happened.
My favorite part of the library was how they handled the 9/11 attacks and I thought this section was extremely well done. They had a daily accounting of what he did for the first several days along with a beautiful memorial wall with all of the names and running news feed of the towers. Almost everyone who was alive at the time remembers where they were when the towers fell and I felt this entire section of the museum was handled beautifully.
The next section of the museum was about the war on terror, but to be honest I wasn’t crazy about how this was handled. It focused more on the Afghanistan actions than the Gulf War and for something that was such a huge part of our lives for so long I would have appreciated more information.
That was all pretty heavy so it was nice when the next section was about the Oval office and GW’s relationship with George Sr. The only other father and son pair to be elected was John and John Quincy Adams and as an inside joke with his father GW had a picture of John Quincy in the oval office. As always I liked the oval office recreation but for the first time they had two photographers in the office that would take your picture. This would be available for sale in the gift shop and both Lee and I felt it was over the top. We particularly didn’t like that they would refer to whoever sat down as Mr. or Madam President and although you could say we took it too seriously, we feel strongly about the symbolism of the oval office and president. That being said a little girl sat in the chair while we were there and looked delighted.
Speaking of kids, they had a lovely section for children which included the dogs and a wonderful video made by the Bush twins. Laura’s hand was all over this part of the museum and because she was a librarian it was beautifully done. The video by the twins was my favorite part of the entire museum when they talked about their dad and what living in the White House was like. Growing up under a microscope would be tough for anyone, but those girls were obviously raised with love and laughter.
I was also pleased to see that they had a large section on Laura. Because she was so quiet about it, I didn’t realize how much traveling she had done and how she advocated for literacy worldwide. They also had a sample of her china (I am fascinated by the choices for some reason) and some more of her outfits. Yes, the First Lady’s life is about way more than hair and clothes but I still enjoy looking at what they wore.
Another sobering section of the museum talked about all the crises that happened during his 8 years in office. It started with the 9/11 attack, the War against Iraq, Katrina, and the Dot.Com crash. No wonder he aged so much during his presidency.
All of the above was on one side of the museum, but the other side was an entire wing dedicated to laughter in the presidency. This was a wonderful exhibit, inclusive of many presidents where GW talked about how important he felt laughter was. It was very interesting, because he took alot of criticism for not being serious enough, but again in retrospect I appreciated his owning it and found myself chuckling at several points during the display. There was also a quiz on the wall where you could answer questions about your sense of humor and see what president you lined up with. I really enjoyed the entire exhibit and found it refreshing after the seriousness of the other side.
All in all it was a nice museum, but I do think it was overpriced and I was pretty disappointed in the gift shop. Usually they have some pretty cool stuff, but this one was standard fare. Next up the Clinton museum in Little Rock as we continue to zig zag north.
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