Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station

November 06, 1997

Thank you very much, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs. Ford, President and Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Reagan, Mrs. Johnson, David and Julie Eisenhower, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Reverend Graham, Governor and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Quayle, and to all the foreign dignitaries and American officials who are here.

The sun is shining on Texas A&M today. And the sun is shining on America today. You know, we have an interesting country, with a lot of religious, racial, and political diversity. Once in a while, we all get together. This morning, I think it's fair to say that all Americans are united in tribute to President George Bush for his lifetime of service to America.

I enjoyed immensely listening to the previous speakers. When Mrs. Reagan spoke—I hope someday Al Gore will be glad that we had lunch once a week. [Laughter] When President Ford spoke, I said, I hope I will look that good when I am 25 years younger than he is. [Laughter] When President Carter spoke, I thought, thank goodness he just reminded the whole world that Presidents have to raise all the money for their libraries. [Laughter]

In 1942, young George Bush heard Secretary of War Henry Stimson challenge his generation to be, and I quote, "be brave without being brutal; self-confident without boasting; part of an irresistible might, but without losing faith in individual liberty." President Bush not only heard those words, he has lived them. And he has rallied his fellow citizens to serve as well in their communities, for their country, and for the cause of democracy around the world.

There are many things that I, not only as President but as a citizen, am grateful to George and Barbara Bush for. I'd like to just mention a few today. As President and afterward, he has worked to ensure that "A Thousand Points of Light" is not merely a striking image but a lasting legacy. I thank him for that initiative and for cochairing the Presidents' Summit on Service.

As President, he summoned all the Governors, including me, to the University of Virginia for a summit on education, where we stayed up more than half the night in a totally bipartisan fashion to write national education goals for our country. And when he was President, Mrs. Bush espoused the importance of literacy and the importance of citizens volunteering to make sure all our children can read. I thought of that when we launched our America Reads initiative, which now has tens of thousands of college students at hundreds of universities all across America, trying to do what Barbara Bush always said we should do, to make sure every one of our fellow citizens could read and read well. And I thank them both for that.

As President and afterward, President Bush stood for American leadership for peace and prosperity, for freedom and democracy. He was the last President of the cold war, but he knew that American responsibility could not end with the cold war. And he showed us that in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The vigilance President Bush displayed in dealing with Iraq, as we all know, is required again today. And I believe the American people support that vigilance, thanks in no small measure to your example not so long ago. And I thank you for that, Mr. President.

As President and afterward, President Bush pushed America to embrace new alliances of trade as instruments of both economic growth and growing democracy. He launched NAFTA and the talks that led to the World Trade Organization. I was proud to complete those efforts, and I am very grateful for the support he continues to give, along with our other former Presidents, to the imperative of American leadership in expanding alliances of trade, not only for our economic welfare but to support our political ideals.

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will vote on whether to extend fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements. I hope Congress will follow the lead that President Bush and the other former Presidents have set to expand trade and our vital horizons in the 21st century. I thank you, Mr. President, for that.

For more than 4 1/2 years now, even though our relationship began under somewhat unusual circumstances, I have been very grateful that whenever I called on President Bush, he was always there with wise counsel and, when he agreed, with public support. It's hard to express to someone who hasn't experienced it what it means in a moment of difficulty to be able to call someone who, first of all, knows exactly what you're up against and, secondly, will tell you the truth. And he has done that time and time again. I am persuaded that the country is better off because of it. And I thank you, Mr. President, for your counsel and your assistance.

This magnificent library will be a place for scholars who try to understand what has happened in some of America's most important years. It's a place for citizens who want to know right now what went on in the life and career of George Bush. It's also a place from which any person would draw enormous inspiration, a place for the reaffirmation of our faith in America.

Benjamin Franklin told our Constitutional Convention, "The first man put at the helm will be a good one, but no one knows what sort will come afterward." Mr. President, I think if Benjamin Franklin were here today, he would say that in George Bush, America has had a good man whose decency and devotion have served our country well. And that is the story this library will tell to generations to come.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:25 a.m. in front of the library building at Texas A&M University. In his remarks, he referred to former First Ladies Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Lady Bird Johnson; Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his wife, Julie, daughter of former President Richard M. Nixon; Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy; Rev. Billy Graham, who gave the invocation; Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, son of former President Bush, and his wife, Laura; and former Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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