The George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU opens to the public May 1, but those wishing to get a sneak peek of the 43rd presidential library needn't wait. The property has already been toured by the media, and the center will live-stream its April 25 dedication, which will be attended by five living presidents, including Barack Obama.
The center encompasses more than 225,000 square feet and is surrounded by a 15-acre nature park replete with prairie landscaping and a wildflower meadow.
"George did not want this to be a monument to himself," said First Lady Laura Bush.
Former First Lady Laura Bush made a surprise appearance at the media preview of the center on April 24. She briefly spoke to reporters in the Rose Garden, which was modeled after the one at the White House.
"I hope people really learn and re-learn the history of the first decade of our new century," she said. "I think people will be very moved by the 9/11 exhibit, and I think that's important because we still, obviously, live with the effects of 9/11."
The University Park facilities are located near SMU's entrance and include a library, museum, presidential archives and public policy institute. In addition to the Oval Office replica, the center boasts the actual Bush White House "Situation Room," which was reconstructed piece-by-piece for the museum. The room is set up to connect Texas schoolchildren with students in California at the Ronald Regan Presidential Library.
Although it bears his name, Laura Bush said that her husband didn't want the center to just be about him. "George did not want this to be a monument to himself," she said. "He said that from the very beginning."
Bush's official portrait for the center is at least one example of sharing the spotlight. He appears alongside former British prime minister Tony Blair in the 7-by-9-foot oil painting.