UNIVERSITY PARK Tuesday is SMU's banner day.

After years of planning, beating out other Texas universities, and setting out the 23-acre site ground will be broken on the George W. Bush Presidential Center, lifting SMU onto the world stage.

And now we start this second century of this university's existence as a moment that looks forward, and it looks forward to opportunity, said SMU spokesman Brad Cheves.

Construction on the $137 million center that will hold the library, archives, and separate institute in one building will take about two years. The center is scheduled to open in 2013.

The Bush Center is already sharing some of what visitors will experience at SMU's Meadows Museum.

Although private dollars will build the center, the archives and library will be run by the federal government.

However, the privately-funded and controversial Bush Institute will tackle policy issues.

We're really focused on developing practical solutions to the different global challenges we face, said Ashley Elsey, a Bush Presidential Center spokeswoman.

But the center and especially the institute already attract protests.

Some Bush critics charge that the institute, in an academic setting, will aim to burnish the record of a president who presided over two wars. Such demonstrations may persist for years.

But SMU says it's all part of the broad debate over the Bush presidency. This community does not represent one point of view, Cheves said. SMU is a community that has various points of view and perspectives, and yet the thing that you can count on most is that it's done with mutual respect.

It's funny how fate and politics can work.

Ten years ago this month, we were in Florida covering the recount as the Bush/Gore election was hanging in the balance.

A few thousand votes the other way, and there would've been no Bush Center at SMU.


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