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CNN NEWSROOM

George W. Bush Presidential Library Opening.

Aired April 25, 2013 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 and to have a chance to address this wonderful audience.

I'll be very brief and I'll be limiting my comments just to the things that I know personally that have been important for me and for George W. Bush. In 2000, there was a disputed election for several weeks and finally when President Bush became president they had the inauguration in Washington on schedule. I think my wife and I were the only volunteer Democrats on the platform.

George and Laura thanks us for coming. If there's anything I could ever do for you, let me know, which is a mistake I made.

The worst problem now is the war going on between North and South Sudan, and millions of people have been killed and I would like for you to help us have a peace treaty there. In a weak moment, he said I'll do it. He said well, I haven't even chosen them yet, but give us three weeks. Three weeks later, I came up. President Bush kept his promise. He appointed John Danforth and a great general from Kenya. 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.

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That was the first of his great contributions to the countries in Africa. As has already been mentioned, he increased his assistance to Africa until the time he went into office to more than $90 billion. That's an increase of 640 percent. That is development assistance. He established a program. There was 6,000 people being treated for HIV. Two million when he left office. At this new institute he has a program called pick ribbon and red ribbon. That is something that is dear to my heart and I know means a lot to millions of people in Africa. I am filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you. Thank you very much.

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ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, President George H.W. Bush.

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GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. What a beautiful day in Dallas. 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 museum possible. We thank you especially and we're glad to be here. God bless America and thank you very much.

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ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, President Bill Clinton.

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BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much presidents and Mrs. Bush. All the representatives here of --

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-- other previous presidents --

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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. And I congratulate him on -- I think this is the second building in the entire federal system that has it, and I want to say, Mr. President, once again you got the better of me -- twice in the last few weeks.

(LAUGHTER)

My library was open for a few years before we could afford to achieve it. And you've beaten me to be a grandfather, and I congratulate you and Laura for it.

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Starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and 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.

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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. Dear God, I hope there's no record of those conversations in this vast and beautiful building.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to say, as President Carter did, I was impressed that President Bush invites us to make different decisions if we choose on the decisions he was facing. It's one of the most interesting things about this library. I want to talk about a couple of other things that are beyond controversy.

First, I want to thank President Bush for passing PEPFAR. No president of my party could have passed that through the Congress and I worked all over Africa with our health access initiative in AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, building health systems. I have personally seen the faces of some of the millions of people who are alive today because of it.

I want to thank President Obama for continuing it and increasing it. I want to thank you and Laura for continuing your work in global health. I want to thank you for your efforts on the present immigration system and I hope the Congress will follow those efforts in the example you set. And I thank you for that.

And I want to thank you for the work we did together in the aftermath of Haiti, the poorest country in our hemisphere. We have closed our fund. I believe in working yourself out of a job. But we helped a lot of people start businesses which are now thriving, and we gave the country the first home mortgage system it ever had. So I thank you for that, Mr. President.

(APPLAUSE)

I probably shouldn't say that, 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. I seriously considering calling you and asking you today portrait of me until I saw the results of your sister's hacked e-mails. At my age, I think I should keep my suit.

(LAUGHTER)

I like President Bush. We do a lot of speeches together and I like it when we have this agreement. 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. He probably won the argument.

We are here to celebrate a country we all love, a service we all rendered, and debate and difference is an important part of every free society. By asking us to join him in the decisions he made and inviting us to make different ones if we choose, he has honored that deepest American tradition. For all of these things, as an American citizen, I am very grateful.

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ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

(APPLAUSE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Please be seated.

Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, President Clinton and now former Secretary Clinton, President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush, to President and Mrs. Carter, current and former world leaders, 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 all together, it's also a special day for our democracy. We've been called the world's most exclusive club, and do we have a pretty nice clubhouse, but the truth is our club's 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 may think you're ready to assume the office of the presidency, it's impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it is yours, until you're sitting at that desk. That's why every president gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before them, from leaders from both parties who've taken on the challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders.

And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush. The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office I 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 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.

And 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.

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 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 a dinosaur tailbone he had smuggled home in his pocket. I'll 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 Welsh 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. And now we see President Bush, the grandfather, just 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.

But we also know something about George Bush, the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we're reminds of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.

We remember the compassion that he showed by leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, helping to save millions of lives and reminding people in some of the poorest corners of the globe that America cares and that we're here to help.

We remember his commitment to reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy because he believed that we had to reform our schools in ways that helped every child learn, not just some. That we had to repair a broken immigration system. And that this progress is only possible when we do it together.

Now, 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 this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the Senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home for our families and our economy and our security and for is this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush.

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Finally, a president bears no greater decision and no more solemn burden than serving as Commander in Chief for the greatest military that the world has ever known. As President Bush himself has said, America must and will keep its word to the men and women who have given us so much. So even as we Americans may at many times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families, and we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States.

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On the flight back from Russia, after negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy's secretary found a small slip of paper on which the president had written a favorite saying. "I know there is a God. And I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe I am ready."

No one can be completely ready for this office. But America needs leaders who are willing to face the storm head on even as they pray for God's strength and wisdom, so that they can do what they believe is right. That's what the leaders with whom I share this stage have all done. That's what President George W. Bush chose to do. That's why I am honored to be part of today's celebration.

Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor, and most of all for your love of country, thank you very much. From all the citizens of the United States of America, God bless you and God bless these United States.

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(SINGING)

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(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe one develops a set of principles through faith, how you were raised and where you were raised. I had a set of principles that I had developed throughout my life, and by the time I became president, I was willing to defend those principles.

I wanted to make sure that the economy was strong. We needed to bolster our military in order to maintain the peace. It was important to promote a culture in which each individual is responsible for his or her decisions. We could improve our public school system so that people had a chance at the American dream, that free enterprise system needed to be defended, and that we could achieve a more peaceful world through a strong America.

I never wanted to be a wartime president, but war came to our shores. On 9/11, I had a lot of emotions. Mostly I was determined. I was determined to protect America. Any Commander in Chief ought to develop a special bond with the military. And I certainly did so, because the toughest decision a president makes is to send men and women in harm's way.

LAURA BUSH: I thought of a multitude of issues that I was interested in and of course one of them is literacy. After September 11th, many other options for issues confronted me and one was women's rights. So when I made the presidential radio address talking about the brutal treatment of women and children by the Taliban, I started getting responses from women everywhere across our country.

GEORGE W. BUSH: One of the guiding principles of my presidency was "To whom much is given, much is required," and America is such a blessed nation that I believe we have an obligation to help human suffering where we possibly can. Life is service till the end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, President George W. Bush.

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GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all. Please be seated. Oh, happy days. I want to thank you all for coming. Laura and I are thrilled to have so many friends, I mean a lot of friends, here to celebrate this special day.

There was a time in my life when I wasn't likely to be found at a library, much less found one. Beautiful building has my name above the door, but it belongs to you. It honors the cause we serve and the country we share. For eight years, you gave me the honor of serving as your president and today I'm proud to dedicate this center to the American people.

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I am very grateful to President Obama and Michelle for making this trip. Unlike the other presidents here, he's actually got a job. President, thank you for your kind words and for leading the nation we all love.

I appreciate my fellow members of the Former Presidents' Club -- 42, 41 and 39. I want to thank you all for your kind words and the example you have set.

Alexander Hamilton once worried about ex-presidents wandering among the people like discontented ghosts. Actually, I think we seem pretty happy. One reason is that we have wonderful First Ladies at our side.

Hillary and Rosalynn, thank you for your service and your generosity. Mother and Laura, you know how I feel.

Condy introduced the world leaders with whom I had the privilege to serve. You're good friends and I'm honored to have you here in the promised land.

I want to welcome the members of Congress. Mr. Speaker, appreciate you coming. And the Diplomatic Corps, I know you all will be happy to hear that this speech is a lot shorter than the State of the Union.