COLLEGE STATION, TX -“When my niece was getting married she had some of her photos taken here,” a woman said to me as we waited in line to buy our admission tickets. “All of a sudden here comes a golf cart. It was Barbara Bush and her secret service agents.
“She told my niece how beautiful she looked in her wedding dress and then posed for pictures,” the woman added.
I didn’t think I would get to meet the former President or Mrs. Bush, but this conversation was a great introduction to the George Bush Library and Museum. The displays are as much about the man, his wife and their family as it is about the presidency.
The tour begins with an introductory film about the couple’s childhoods, how George served in WW II, went to Yale on the GI Bill, met and married Barbara and set off for Texas where he would succeed in the oil industry.
The movie deals with the loss of a daughter to leukemia, their success and failures at business, and the President’s public life.
After the film, friendly docents offer audio tours and maps and the journey begins, much as it did in the movie.
Past scrapbook-like photo displays of the President’s childhood, and that of Barbara Pierce Bush, I began to see the Bush family in a totally different light than I had watching sound bites on the news or reading accounts of public and political decisions.
Original photographs tell the story of a young man serving as a Navy pilot, a college student, young husband and father. A restored 1947 Studebaker, identical to the one the Bush’s drove to Texas in 1948, welcomes you into the life of the family which now included George W. as they begin a new journey in West Texas.
In Texas George W. is joined by siblings Pauline Robinson (Robin) who died of leukemia, John (Jeb), Neil, Marvin and Dorothy (Doro) Bush.
Businessman, Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China, Ambassador in Peking and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); each facet of President Bush’s public life is visually recreated in the museum labyrinth.
Next the Vice Presidency years are chronicled and finally the four year of the Presidency.
Displays illustrate the Oval Office, Camp David, landmark events, policy and the Gulf War, recreating his time in office: January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993.
In the Gifts of State room, beautiful objects given to President and Mrs. Bush by foreign Heads of State are displayed. Each exquisite work of art reflects the nation’s artistry, geography, religion and history.
An area of the museum is also dedicated to the former First Lady. One area is set up like a cozy living room where guests can read one of the many books available to their children or grandchildren. Children can crawl inside the White House model while adults survey the grounds behind the Library which includes a pond and the Barbara Bush Rose Garden.
At the end of the tour, displays illustrate how the couple is spending their post-presidency years by remaining active in many volunteer and humanitarian activities. A life-size photograph shows them walking hand in hand into the future.
If you go:
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, at 1000 George Bush Drive. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
For more information call (979) 691-4000 or check the website at http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu.