UNIVERSITY PARK — Reporters got a tour of the evolving George W. Bush Presidential Center on Monday, with glimpses of what the building will be, and what its namesake hopes it will become.
"Politics was interesting," President George W. Bush told an audience of a few hundred fans and donors. "But after 14 years, I'm out. I'm looking forward to the races. I'm looking forward to giving my opinions privately to people who want to know. But I'm also interested in doing something in public policy that will be consequential, that will be effective."
The former president, wife Laura, and architect Robert Stern are brimming with pride as their vision of the library on the SMU campus becomes reality.
Stern guided reporters through some of the library's attractions, noting that it will be the first presidential library of the digital age, while also letting the public experience the physical aspects of the White House.
A full-sized Oval Office will be open for public access, and it will overlook a replica Rose Garden.
A twisted, rusty girder from the World Trade Center will be one focal point of an exhibit on 9/11 and terrorism.
The Presidential Center, as its being called, includes the library/museum, a policy center conceived as a place for the interchange of ideas, and the landscaped grounds planted with native Texas species.
The president credits Laura Bush with making it all come together. They clearly hope the place will be a launching pad instead of a memorial.
"It will be a place for all of the world to come," said Mrs. Bush. "To come study what happened during the eight years that George was president; to look forward; and to move the policy issues that were important to us forward as part of the Institute."
Those issues are education, freedom, the economy, and health.
Although the library won't open until 2013, the Bushes say they're already pushing initiatives in those areas.