April 25th, 2013
02:45 PM ET
12 months 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. The Real Tom Paine

    This was nice to read: the sad thing is that there will be a rash of posts on here, attacking some or all of them. Honor and respect their service.

    April 25, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. Wake up People!

    Be well gentlemen. You all had one heck of a job. One that I would never want....

    Now I'm just waiting for all the nastiness to begin.....
    Bashing of Presidents Obama and Carter starts now.......

    April 25, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. The man

    Lets be civil. Though we have disagreements, it is better to come together for the common good of the people.

    April 25, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. Nsikan

    I was moved by a "tribute elephant in the room" paid to former president Carter. I feel historians and evangelicals have forgotten who Jimmy Carter was/is. It's comforting to know that many people could still have wondeful things to say about the former and present presidents. We are Americans and no matter your political stripes, our presidents are/were great people – just look beyond the rheoterics.

    April 25, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    I love reading the speeches that were given. Former President George W. Bush's words were spot on, and well articulated. Presidents have the highest, most stressful, and often thankless job in this country. As much as some of us hate them, we need to be glad it's not us in the spotlight of the WHOLE world. Great display of bipartisanship – I hope to see more of it in the future.

    April 25, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Babyboomer

    I must say, I like seeing all the former Presidents together every now and then. I can't imagine what taking on that job must be like. Everyone looks well. Good to see...

    April 25, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Babyboomer

    I meant to say present and former.

    April 25, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Thomas

    The pink sox's , thats a classic !

    April 25, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. Homer Simpson

    The puurpose of public office is not to fill personal ambitions, especially the ones that cost thousands of innocent lives, destroyed our economy, and defaced us for all the world to see.

    April 25, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    I enjoyed reading their comments. It is good for America to witness each of them honoring one another with civility and respect.

    April 25, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. freedom

    Everyone was classy, but Obama – he had to talk politics – INAPPROPRIATE !! This isn't an opportunity to push an agenda. Very wrong, and embarrassing.

    April 25, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. Country First

    Thanks CNN I watched it live and it was really great to see all of our Presidents together. Being President has got to be one of the toughest most stressful jobs for anyone.

    April 25, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. bill tomey

    how can he even be considered a great president after killing 3000+ AMERICANS on sept 11,2001 HE WAS TOLD it was gonna happen on august 15 th,and didn't pay attyention

    April 25, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. bill tomey

    how can he even be considered a great president after killing 3000+ AMERICANS on sept 11,2001 HE WAS TOLD it was gonna happen on august 15 th,and didn't pay attyention when ddid I say this show me,u people must be on his payroll

    April 25, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. bill tomey

    how can he even be considered a great president after killing 3000+ AMERICANS on sept 11,2001 HE WAS TOLD it was gonna happen on august 15 th,and didn't pay attyention when ddid I say this show me,u people must be on his payroll u people are a bunch of GOPers

    April 25, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. Suzu

    First Lady " my son could have defeated you in election instead of McCain!!
    President: I bet, but only in Texas..

    April 25, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. Marlon 45

    Even though so many people in America are still struggling to make ends meet, How do them spending money in other countries really benefit America as a whole? One day they will be held accountable to Americans, once We the People stop being divided one way or another!

    April 25, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Pete

    I just can't understand how people including 5 presidents can stand in the same room honoring a maniacal murderer as Bush and honoring his service which he had little time in because he vacationed most of the time..A president who will go down as the most murderous president of recent history killing thousands of innocent military men,women of our country and untold thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians as well..How can we praise a man who can say publicly he's content with the decisions he made as president and he like Cheney being arrogent as well as ignorent showing no remorse and said they'd never change a thing.Total BS from the man of many faces but this one showed delushion as well as insensitivity because his statements showed no emotion at all at times,sometimes looking blank into a camera trying to figure what to say like he did stupidly many times before as president ..This a man that should be on trial instead of being praised and its we as Americans that should show the world that even our presidents or others in high political positions must be held accountable for lies creating wars in countrys like Iraq ,a country made quilty by a maniacal president that created illusions of WMD with lies..We as Americans should stand here no more and should send Bush,Cheney to meet justice as over 150 other countrys feel as well and if not here than in the Netherlands Hague where justice isn't blind and is swift ,impartial as well...

    April 25, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Laura Wright

    Thank God we live in a country where even the misinformed can express their heartfelt opinions publicly, without fear of reprisal by the government. God bless America.

    April 25, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. Olaf Big

    Solemn and very symbolic moment! But why does it have to be a library for George W? Could not it be pretzel factory?

    April 25, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  21. g

    for every person he saved in africa ,he killed three in iraq on a lie

    April 25, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  22. Xavier

    "What? Another Bush running for president? Say it isn't so!"

    April 25, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  23. Robert Camacho

    George W announces he wants to run another term in 2016! What? !!!
    President Obama and Barbara Bush react to his comment...

    April 26, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  24. whyeventry

    I think it may have something to due about the dog paintings. May be getting drop on the floor or shushed.
    Who knows? CNN ask your king what happened.

    April 26, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  25. john

    In response to standing near each other. (Barbara thinking to herself) "There's the camera...am I smiling?" (President thinking to himself) "There's the camera. Am I smiling?"

    April 26, 2013 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
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