April 25th, 2013
02:45 PM ET
1 year ago

Highlights of presidential speeches at Bush ceremony

(CNN) – It's a rare event when five living U.S. presidents can share the same stage. They did exactly that Thursday when they gathered for the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony in Dallas.

In their remarks, the presidents at times joked about life after the White House and poked fun at the man they were honoring. But mostly, they expressed gratitude for the 43rd president and praised the new library and museum, located on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

See some of the highlights after the jump.

Former President George W. Bush

"I am very grateful to President Obama and Michelle for making this trip. Unlike the other presidents here, he's actually got a job. Mr. President, thank you for your kind words and for leading the nation we all love."

"A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors and the strong protect the weak and public policies promote private compassion. As president, I tried to act on these principles every day. It wasn't always easy and certainly wasn't always popular. One of the benefits of freedom is that people can disagree. It's fair say I created plenty of opportunities to exercise that right."

"In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right, polls rise and fall, supporters come and go, but in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom."

Former President Bill Clinton

"I told President Obama that this was the latest, grandest example of the eternal struggle of former presidents to rewrite history (laughter). And I want to take my hat off to President Bush. This is a beautiful library. The exhibits are great. The work of the Bush Institute is inspiring."

"Starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family, that I had become the black sheep son. My mother told me not to talk too long today, and Barbara, I will not let you down. (laughter)"

"There is one other connection I have that I think is largely unknown, which is that a couple of times a year in his second term George Bush would call me just to talk politics, and a chill went up and down my spine when Laura said that all their records were digitized. (laughter) Dear God I hope there's no record of those conversations in this vast and beautiful building."

"First I want to thank President Bush for passing PEPFAR. No president of my party could have passed that from Congress and I worked all over Africa...I have personally seen the faces of some of the millions of people who are alive today because of it."

"I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm going to anyway. Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings, and I thought they were great. Really great. And I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me–until I saw the results of your sister's hacked e-mails. Those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit."

"I like President Bush. We do a lot of speeches together, and I like it when we have disagreements. He is disarmingly direct. We were having an argument over health care in one of these speeches and I went on about the German health care system, and he said I don't know a thing about the German health care system. I think he probably won the argument. (laughter) We are here to celebrate a country we all love...debated difference is an important part of every society....He has honored that deepest American tradition. For all of these things, as an American citizen, I am very grateful."

President Barack Obama

"To know the man is to like the man because he is comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn't put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously but not himself too seriously. He is a good man. But we also know something about George Bush, the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we're reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood among the rubble and ruins as Ground Zero, promising to bring justice to those who sought to destroy our way of life."

"The first thing I found in that desk when I took office was a letter from George. One that demonstrated his compassion and his generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned that being president above all is humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. What I know is true about President Bush and I hope my successor will say about me is that we love this country and we do our best."

"Seven years ago President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that his year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and the members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home for our families, and our economy, and our security and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that it will be thanks to the hard work of President George w. Bush."

Former President George H. W. Bush.

"Thank you all very much. What a beautiful day in Dallas. It's a great pleasure to be here to honor our son, our oldest son. This is very special for Barbara and me and thank you all for coming and to all those who made this marvelous museum possible, we thank you especially and we're glad to be here. God bless America and thank you very much."

Former President Jimmy Carter

"Well it is a great honor for me to be here today, and it reminds me of my favorite cartoon in a New Yorker magazine. This little boy is looking up at his father. He says, 'Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president.' Well, four of us have already made that goal, and one is still working on it. But it is a wonderful thing to be with the other presidents."

"In January of 2005, there was a peace treaty between North and South Sudan that ended a war that had been going on for 20 years. George W. Bush is responsible for that. That was the first of his great contributions to the countries in Africa. As has already been mentioned briefly here, he increased the development assistance to Africa from the time he went into office until he left from more than $1.4 billion to more than $9 billion. That's an increase of 640%. That is development assistance. He established a PEPFAR program. There were 50,000 HIV sufferers in Africa being treated when he came in office. When he left office, two million. I'll let you figure the percentage on that."


Filed under: Bill Clinton • George W. Bush • Jimmy Carter • President Obama • Texas
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Yep

    Did he say brocolli...yes he did

    April 26, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  2. CURT

    GAS!!

    April 26, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  3. sonib

    President Obama, "You should have seen the mess W left for me to clean up!"

    April 26, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  4. dude

    I agree with CURT

    April 26, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  5. MommaDesha

    Mrs. Bush – Do you know my son Jeb plans to run for the Presidency in 2016 and he wants his brother George by his side? And to think, I thought Jeb was the smart one.

    April 26, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  6. gal

    "You might be from a blue state....and I might be from a red state...but tonight, Mr. President, we're both in a sneezing state."

    April 26, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  7. Matt

    Approximately 3 seconds after Carter said "Pull my finger"

    April 26, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
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