George W. Bush library
President Obama is joined by, from left, former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press / April 25, 2013)

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
April 25, 2013, 6:22 p.m.

DALLAS — The five men who have held the title of president gathered to celebrate the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University on Thursday, a rare reunion that focused on praising his achievements and made only passing reference to the controversies that divided the country during his administration.

Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, President Obama and all the living ex-presidents — Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush — spoke at a gathering that proved far more collegial than their past political disputes.

“Polls rise and fall, supporters come and go, but in the end leaders are defined by the convictions they hold,” Bush told the crowd of supporters, lawmakers and former world leaders.

Although Obama largely campaigned against Bush’s moves as president, especially the invasion of Iraq, he had only good things to say Thursday. Iraq went unmentioned.

“To know the man is to like the man because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t put on any pretenses,” Obama said of Bush.

Bush, 66, who has largely avoided commenting on the work of his successor, praised Obama in return, thanking him “for your kind words and for leading this country well.”

A crowd estimated at 10,000 was drawn to the dedication of the $250-million facility, the 13th presidential library operated by the National Archives. The building houses 43,000 artifacts, 70 million pages of paper records and 200 million emails, the largest digital archive of any presidential library. Admission will be $16 when it opens to the public May 1.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced a slew of world leaders in attendance, including NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and former prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain, Ehud Olmert of Israel and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

The gathering also included a who’s-who of American political scions: Lyndon Johnson’s two daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox, Susan Ford Bales, Michael Reagan and the Bush clan.

They were joined by a host of Republicans: House Speaker John A. Boehner, Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Jan Brewer of Arizona and Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Perhaps most watched was George H.W. Bush, who was discharged from the hospital in January after six weeks of treatment for complications from bronchitis.

To read entire story, click here.