Controversy Arises Over President Bush’s Proposed Archive Site
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KWAME HOLMAN: With their memorabilia-stocked museum, Oval Office replicas and sweeping grounds, presidential libraries are much more than stacks of books and boxes of official papers.
Now, with less than two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is close to deciding where and how to memorialize his time in office. Mr. Bush has zeroed in on Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It’s in his home state, and First Lady Laura Bush is an alumnus.
But some members of SMU’s faculty have argued against affiliating the university with the Bush presidency. They’re worried that a public policy institute at the library would have as its mission furthering the ideas and goals of the Bush administration.
Controversies over the siting of presidential libraries are nothing new. Duke University, where Richard Nixon attended law school, rejected his papers. And Ronald Reagan decided to build his library in Simi Valley, California, after Stanford University faculty and students questioned plans to build the facility there.
The role of the presidential library has evolved in recent decades, expanding from a simple repository of presidential papers to a vehicle for ex-presidents to continue their public service.
Jimmy Carter’s institute, the Carter Center, is perhaps the most prominent, active in international mediation and election monitoring. And at his presidential library dedication in 2004, Bill Clinton explained the vision for his new complex, which includes a foundation that advances various global initiatives.
BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: What it is to me is the symbol of not only what I tried to do, but what I want to do with the rest of my life: building bridges from yesterday to tomorrow, building bridges across racial and religious and ethnic and income and political divides, building bridges.
KWAME HOLMAN: When President Bush opens his library, he’ll become only the 13th president with a dedicated archive.