The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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President Turner discusses Bush Center opening

The Bush Library is “the most Texas” of the presidential libraries in the state and will have interactive technology, according to Turner.
Christopher Saul / The Daily Campus
The Bush Library is “the most Texas” of the presidential libraries in the state and will have interactive technology, according to Turner.

The Bush Library is “the most Texas” of the presidential libraries in the state and will have interactive technology, according to Turner. (Christopher Saul / The Daily Campus)

In mere days, SMU will become part of an exclusive club, the home to just one of 13 presidential libraries.

With thousands of people slated to be a part of this historic event, the university itself will be the center of attention, something that SMU President R. Gerald Turner said he is looking forward to.

“It gives us an incredible opportunity, because when people see our campus and when they interact with our students it just provides a great, positive experience for them,” said Dr. Turner.

“President Turner said from the beginning that to pursue a presidential library was to attempt to bring to campus a house of history that would benefit students and faculty,” said Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves.

This is an exciting moment in the university’s history, and many, including Dr. Turner, are looking forward and see how this center will help shape SMU in the future.

Turner believes that having the Bush Presidential Center on SMU’s campus is an incredible and rare advantage over many schools.

One of those advantages is the increased media coverage, which has helped put SMU on the map.

“We’ve spent the last two weeks doing alumni meetings on the East Coast. [Also] we invited students that had been admitted for next year and their parents and all of them were talking about how you used to not hear about SMU,” Dr. Turner said.

“It has really increased in the last three or four years and when your really think about it it’s related to the Bush Presidential Library.”

The center will be the third in the state of Texas, joining Lyndon B. Johnson’s at the University of Texas at Austin and George H.W. Bush’s at Texas A&M.

With that in mind, many are wondering what will make this library different than the other two.

“Our library will be a lot more interactive in terms of technology,” said Dr. Turner. “It’s the most reflective of where it is, it’s the most Texas of all three and I think the interactivity of it is going to be very important.”

Though it reflects its Texan roots, the center is also unique due in part to it’s location in an urban setting such as Dallas.

It’s also the former home of former First Lady Laura Bush, who has been key in all aspects of putting the library together.

“Mrs. Bush, as an alumna, has a deep appreciation for the campus and was dedicated to creating the presidential center that highlighted attributes of the 43rd President,” Cheves said.

Another separation from the other two libraries is the Bush Institute, which is housed in the center alongside the library.

However, Dr. Turner said that SMU had also considered other options.

“We thought about trying to get a school of public policy, but then it’s just another one of them, and then our Bush 43 would be competing with Bush 41 for the same students and that’s just not good,” Dr. Turner said.

Although the institute has been controversial to many students and faculty, Dr. Turner says even President Bush never intended for the policy institute to have a partisan slant.

When SMU was still competing to be the host for the center, Dr. Turner said he spoke with President Bush about concerns that the institute may be viewed as a Republican think-tank.

“He said not to worry about the institute. He’s more interested in how best ways to approach these issues,” said Dr. Turner.

“He said that’s usually not Republican or Democratic ideas, it’s down the middle, and he just wants the best answers.”

The institute, which has been open since 2009, has launched several programs that focus on aspects President Bush holds close to his heart, including human freedom, global health and economic growth.

The policy center has also opened the door for conversations between the political parties.

“The Bush Center, the library, the museum, they have shown that through the institute they want to engage our university in thoughtful dialogue and debate,” Cheves said.

Another thing Dr. Turner is looking forward to on April 25 is the special guests that will be on SMU’s campus for the dedication ceremony.

“Having five presidents here, I think all of us who have worked on it, it’s going to be a very proud moment when [the presidential center] is declared officially open,” Dr. Turner said.

The last time Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama were all in the same place was in January 2009, for Obama’s inauguration.

“History’s made at SMU when the sitting president of the United States and all living former Presidents will be on our campus,” Cheves said.

“We will be on display like never before and never after,” Dr. Turner said.

Although Turner said that it’s been a pleasure working with President and Mrs. Bush over the last 12 years to bring the center to campus, Turner said he is looking forward to the big day.

“It’s like anything that you’ve worked so hard on, when it finally comes there’s almost a disbelief,” Dr. Turner said.

“It’s incredibly gratifying when you think back how many people and all that has gone into it. It’s unbelievable that it’s finally happening.” 

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