Bush Introduces Vision for Library’s Policy Institute
November 12, 2009
By Chris Dell
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, outlined their vision for their much-publicized presidential library Thursday in their first formal address given at SMU since leaving the White House.
About 1,500 spectators crowded into McFarlin Auditorium to hear the 30-minute speech, during which Bush attempted to dispel rumors and drum up local support for the $300 million library and policy institute. The Bush Foundation so far has raised $212 million.
The policy institute has drawn the ire from Bush’s opponents, who claim it will be a platform for partisan policies. Bush emphasized the institute will be a vehicle for “public service” and education, not Republican agendas.
“It will be a platform for us to continue public service for the rest of our lives,” Bush said. “This institute will be independent and non-partisan.”
The Institute’s Four Causes
Bush outlined four key causes that the policy institute will champion: education, global health, human freedom and economic growth.
He also emphasized the institute’s dedication to “social entrepreneurship” and women’s rights, which his wife Laura seemed enthusiastic to highlight.
“I’m especially excited about the women’s institute,” said Laura Bush. “Women’s rights will be integrated into every part of the institute. Women are leading advocates for issues that affect us all, especially health and education.”
Added George W. Bush: “Laura and I believe women are powerful instruments for social change.”
The former president called education his “top priority” while in office and said it will be the policy institute’s first area of focus.
To spearhead the effort of education reform, Bush announced the appointment of the institute’s first two education fellows: Dr. Jim Guthrie, a current professor at Vanderbilt University, and Sandy Kress, a former member of the Dallas School Board.
According to a press release, Guthrie and Kress “will oversee an innovative product to study how best to recruit, prepare, evaluate, and reward leaders in the field of education.”
In its dedication to fulfilling the other three causes, Bush said the policy institute will focus on ways of promoting democracy, free trade and health reform domestically and in third-world countries.
Return to the “Promised Land”
Bush opened his speech by expressing his relief to be back in Texas, where he was once governor before serving eight years as president.
The former White House couple now lives in Preston Hollow, a stone’s throw from SMU, where Laura graduated in 1968.
Bush described Dallas as the “Promised Land” and said he was glad to “…come home to Texas with my values intact,” which drew a raucous applause from the crowd.
The Foundation is set to break ground on the library in about a year, but there are still issues to be resolved in the meantime.
Some University Park residents are squabbling about the location of the parking lot, which will approach the yards of some homes on the north side of the campus.
Others are concerned that traffic infrastructure changes need to be made for SMU to be able to handle the increased traffic flow from the library. Bush Foundation officials expect 250,000 extra visitors will be on campus each year because of the library.