Going to any presidential library/museum is a journey into a time capsule. Dubya’s library followed a similar format to the other six I’ve been to. That’s right I have been to seven of these glory palaces and I have loved each and everyone of them. Why?
Because one gets to see and touch the humanity of the man. The building itself is sometimes an artful treasure. But often times it can surrender to the whims of the committee that was appointed to build it. This particular library lacked any exterior pazzazz. But the interior was a different story.
As with all such places the initial exhibits focus on the gifts given the first family by governments and citizens of the world. Items are often constructed of precious stones and/or metals. The gifts can be a bit schlocky or of high culture. No matter where one’s view resides seeing these gifts is a treat — see the following example:
As with other presidential libraries there are some truly whiz-bang tech features. Upon entering the main building we are ushered into a large square room topped with skylights and a 360 degree screen that resembles a Disney ride. It begins with the Texas landscape and segues to citizens performing the tasks that fill their daily lives: firefighters, dancers, moms, dads — you get the picture, right?
Then we shuffle through different themes. As I entered the “9/11” rooms Dickens’ famous words revolved in my mind, “It was the best of times and the worst of times”:
These girders were from the Twin Towers. Revisiting the pictures, the sounds and the artifacts brought tears to my eyes — reliving a terrible day again. Seeing the photos of Pres. Bush with a bullhorn at the site in NYC reminded me that for a brief moment the country seemed united again — nothing else seemed to matter — we were all Americans and we were all hurting.
Then it was on to the Iraq war rooms. Sadly, once again as in 2003 I felt the goodwill drift away. The following photos were of things commonly seen at the time:
Fortunately, there are some fun exhibits such as those that show how kids played baseball for years on the south lawn of the White House. And the replica room of the Oval Office was truly amazing.
Many of the world health initiatives were inspiring — especially the efforts to combat Aids in Africa:
and efforts to support democratic ideals around the world:
The final large theme that hit home for me was the 2008 financial meltdown and the introduction of TARP:
These were scary times. Clearly, I have a bias about this topic: I believe Dubya acted appropriately when he interceded to stop the bleeding of the financial system. We attendees at the library got to offer our own opinions on four key decision points:
This interactive display enabled participants to make their own judgement call. Surprisingly, the majority of participants would have let the system and the banks crash and burn. I looked at this folks and wondered if they were blind to the reality of the time. Perhaps the government failed to fully explain the terror that would have befallen us if nothing had been done.
Its times like these that cause me to wonder if the world is now so complex people cannot always fully grasp the issues of a given day.
No matter, as a committed fan of history I recommend visiting this library whatever the political persuasion.