Bush family, staff congregate in Dallas to celebrate the presidential library

April 24, 2013

It’ll be a family reunion of sorts — a really big reunion — when the old team gets back together in Dallas this week for the dedication of the new George W. Bush presidential library.


The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. (Kim Johnson Flodin/AP Photo)

More than 8,000 family, friends, staffers and former adminstration officials are expected for the celebration, which includes a formal dedication Thursday morning with President Obama and all the living former presidents and first ladies (except Nancy Reagan, who is too frail to travel); a dinner for 1,000 on the lawn Wednesday; a Bush-Cheney picnic for 3,000; and the lighting of Freedom Tower Thursday night, plus fireworks.

The mood? High. “This has been a really special time in their lives,” said Anita McBride, former chief of staff for Laura Bush. The Bushes, she said, are “thrilled” with both of their babies: The new $500 million library, and new grandchild Mila Hager, their first, who arrived just early enough last week that Jenna and Henry may well get to join the extended Bush family for the party. Also on the list: Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Josh Bolten, Andy Card, Michael Chertoff , Alberto Gonzalez, Tom Ridge, Karl Rove and Tony Blair.

Like many old staffers, fomer counselor Ed Gillespie said he’s looking forward to the reunion. “When you work in the White House, you form some strong bonds with people over very long hours, so it’s nice to do some catching up.” Said Emily Lawrimore, a former assistant press secretary: “It’s going to be a packed, exciting day.”

Plus: It’s history. Officially, presidential library dedications are bipartisan, feel-good events. Unofficially, the presence of so many still-controversial administration figures has attracted many critics — but it hasn’t dampened the party.

“The president commands a lot of respect and affection from the people who served him,” Gillespie told us. “I’m not alone in feeling that I’m a better person for serving by his side for 20 months.” People, he said, “have strong feelings on both sides of the divide. President Bush believes, rightly, that history will be kind.”

 

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Amy Argetsinger | April 23, 2013