History is always told from the perspective of the historian. In the case of a presidential library the perspective is that of the President. Love him or hate him, the George W. Bush Library & Museum at SMU offers a comprehensive tale of the events during the terms of the nation’s 43rd President.
The first stop on the tour is a vivid multi-media exhibition of the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It’s hard to suppress an emotional response as the presentation takes you back to that terrible day in the early month’s of the Bush first term.
Video shows the moments as hijacked planes hit the twin towers. There is an actual twisted I-beam from the mangled ruins. There is the video of the President being told of the attacks while visiting elementary school students in Florida.
“Today our nation saw evil,” he said that night on TV.
Perhaps the most iconic moment in the days that followed was Bush standing on the rubble of the Trade Center, speaking with a bullhorn to the workers who were digging through the debris, looking for bodies.
And yes, the Library has the bullhorn.
There is an extensive exhibit on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the viewpoint of the global war on terrorism, although no link has ever been discovered between Saddaam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
The tragic events of Hurricane Katrina are covered in an interactive display in the Decision Points exhibit. The President was widely criticized for the handling of the disaster, and the display allows you to vote on whether you agree or disagree with video clips of people critical of the FEMA response.
A tribute to the President’s African Aids initiative is on display. There is a section devoted to the economic collapse that led to the Great Recession toward the end of his second term.
The former President is an avid sports fan and there are displays reflecting his love of baseball and his days as Managing Partner of the Texas Rangers. Another display shows commemorative balls from college championship teams that visited the White House.
The volume of material is staggering…over 17,000 videos, nearly 8,000 audio recordings, and 3.8-million photographs.
The museum is a perfect venue for a family outing. It ‘s well-suited for children, particularly teenagers who are old enough to remember many of the historic events of the Bush presidency. We toured it in about 90 minutes because they were getting ready to close, but you’ll want to go slower if you have the time.