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KWAME HOLMAN: Considering a longstanding tradition, Former President Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to the White House today for the unveiling of their official portraits which will hang in the presidential residence. President Bush offered glowing remarks about each of the former White House occupants.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the president, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As chief executive, he showed a deep and far ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need and the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president. Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead, and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president made special mention of Mrs. Clinton’s achievements since leaving the White House.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It takes an extraordinary person to campaign and win the United States Senate. She has proven herself more equal to the challenge. And she takes an interesting spot in American history today, for she is the only sitting senator whose portrait hangs in the White House.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Clintons then came forward each to unveil her and his own portrait. They were painted by a former sharecropper and the first African-American to paint a presidential portrait for the mansion. Mr. Clinton thanked the artist who was on hand and then President Bush.
BILL CLINTON: The president by his generous words to Hillary and me today has proved once again that in the end we are held together by this grand system of ours that permits us to debate and struggle and fight for what we believe is right, and because it’s free, because it is the system of majority rule and minority rights, we’re still around here after over 200 years. Most of the time we get it right. I’m honored to be a small part of it.
KWAME HOLMAN: The former president also reflected on the political climate in Washington.
BILL CLINTON: Most people I’ve known in this business– Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals– were good people and honest people and they did what they thought was right. I hope that I will live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates where we argue who is right and wrong not who is good and bad. My experience is most of the people I’ve known in this work are good people who love their country desperately. And I am profoundly grateful that for a brief period I had a chance to be one of them. Thank you very much.
KWAME HOLMAN: After ceremonies, the Bushes and Clintons attended a lunch together joined by members of the former and current administrations.