BLOG: A 5-Star Welcome For The Bush Center | KERA News

BLOG: A 5-Star Welcome For The Bush Center

Apr 25, 2013

Final update, 11:40 a.m.: The dedication ceremony for the Bush Presidential Center at SMU wrapped up without any major incidents. The four other presidents who spoke praised George W. Bush for his service, citing examples such as his work in Africa and his response after 9-11.

President Obama described the former president as a “good man” and said he could relate to a comment Bush’s daughters made that he wasn’t cool enough when he chose to run for president.

When Bush took the stage, he joked that his speech would be much shorter than a State of the Union address. It was, lasting only about 10 minutes. As the Associated Press reported, the former president said America must work to “expand the reach of freedom,” and he choked up a bit at the end.

Perhaps the only major distraction came from protesters across Central Expressway away from campus, where about 200 people marched to a single, slow drumbeat along a small stretch of sidewalk.

Reporter BJ Austin reports that some of speakers in the protest group called for Bush Administration officials to be held accountable for an “illegal war” in Iraq and innocent Iraqi civilian deaths. One active duty army specialist told the crowd that when he went to Iraq in 2011, he thought he was there to make life better for the Iraqi people and was stunned to find the country still without the basic necessities like water and reliable electricity. Police reported a peaceful and orderly protest.

Another group of Latino protesters called for an end to deportations that split up families and passage of the Dream Act for young, college-bound Hispanic students in this country illegally.

Update, 10:07 a.m.: A historic moment this morning at the SMU campus -- all five presidents and first ladies are on stage in front of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Update, 9:25 a.m.: Some of the guests at this morning's dedication of the Bush Center are showing off their fancy hats and regional garb, reports KERA's Lauren Silverman.

Sally Atwater, wife of the late Republican political strategist and consultant Lee Atwater, is wearing a pink cowboy hat.

Reporter Shelley Kofler said many other guests are donning their formal dark-colored suits and dresses and a few are wearing khakis and capris.

Update, 8:40 a.m.: Former longtime television host Phil Donahue has joined the group of protestors gathered on the other side of Central Expressway, away from the SMU campus and Bush Center, reports KERA's BJ Austin.

Donahue says he's there to protest the U.S. continuing to hold prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without formal charges, drone strikes and what he believes is an erosion of civil liberties in the U.S.

Our original story: Long lines began forming early at the DART Mockingbird Station in Dallas as attendees wait to board shuttle buses that will take them to this morning's dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University.

Five living presidents will attend and several heads of states, including Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Numerous streets around campus, in downtown Dallas and North Oak Cliff have been closed as police have ramp up security for the event.

KERA's BJ Austin spoke earlier with Linda and Sam Modica, who drove from San Diego, stopping along the way to visit the George H.W. Bush and LBJ presidential libraries. Linda Modica says they are "big fans of George W." and are very excited to see his museum and library. This is the eighth presidential library the  couple has visited.