President and Mrs. Obama were in Dallas today for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It was an historic occasion that brought all the living former Presidents — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – together for the first time since right before President Obama took office in 2009. They were joined by former First Ladies Roslyn Carter, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton (also a former Secretary of State, as President Obama noted) and Laura Bush.
Below is the transcript of President Obama’s speech:
To President and Mrs. Bush to President Clinton and now former Secretary Clinton to President George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Bush to President and Mrs. Carter to current and former world leaders and all the distinguished guests here today, Michelle and I are honored to be with you to mark this historic occasion.
This is a Texas sized party. That’s worthy of what we’re here to do today. Honor the life and legacy of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for democracy. We’ve been called the world’s most exclusive club and we do have a pretty nice club house.
But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office and I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you think you’re ready to assume the office of the President, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours.
Until you’re sitting at that desk. And that’s why every President gains a greater appreciation for all of those who served before them. For the leaders from both parties who’ve taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight on their shoulders and for me, that appreciation very much extends President Bush.
The first thing I found at the desk the day I took office was a letter from George. And one that demonstrated his compassion and his generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learn. That being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes.
There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love our country and we do our best. Now in the past, President Bush has said it’s impossible to pass judgment on his presidency while he’s still alive, so maybe this is a little bit premature.
But even now there are certain things that we know for certain. We know about the son who was raised by two strong loving parents in Midland. Famously inheriting, as he says, ‘my daddy’s eyes and my mother’s mouth.’ The young boy who once came home after a trip to the museum and proudly presented his horrified mother with a small dinosaur tail bone he had smuggled home in his pocket. [LAUGHTER]
I bet that went over great with Barbara. We know about the young man who met the love of his life at a dinner party. Ditching his plans to go to bed early and instead talking with the brilliant and charming Laura Welch late into the night. We know about the father who raised two remarkable, caring, beautiful daughters.
Even after they tried to discourage him from running for President saying ‘Dad, you’re not as cool as you think you are.’ Mr. President, I can relate. [LAUGHTER] And now we can see President Bush, the grandfather, beginning to spoil his brand new granddaughter. So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true. ‘To know the man is to like the man.’ Because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.