Bush's final frontier: Raising USD 300 m for his library

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Dallas (Texas, US), Mar.15 (ANI): Former President George W. Bush is preparing for one final struggle against all odds: To raise 300 million dollars for a presidential library, museum and policy institute.

The former president and first lady have already begun holding small private dinners to persuade wealthy friends to invest in a monument and incubator based on the values and events of his presidency.

By this fall, he'll be armed with architect's renderings and will hold travel around the country to meet with groups and build support for the complex on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Some of his new neighbors are less than thrilled with the plan, with a handful of history and political science professors lined up to criticize it.

But SMU fought hard to win the library, as one of eight original bidders and then four semi-finalists for the honor.

"We've certainly had to defend our decision, but absolutely feel like it was the right one," Politico quoted SMU's president R. Gerald Turner, as saying.

"The overall sentiment on the faculty is that whether they agreed with the president personally or not, it's great to have these papers and this resource on campus," he added.

Bush has often gotten out of jams by dint of personal charm, and he's trying that once again.

Two weeks ago, to show he wants to get involved in the SMU community, Bush made a surprise visit to political science professor Harold Stanley's 9:30 a.m. "Intro to American Government and Politics" class.

Turner accompanied him and asked the 29 sleepy students, "Do you recognize the 43rd president of the United States?"

Bush talked for 10 minutes and took questions for another 50, on everything from the stimulus to banking to whether he had seen the Oliver Stone movie "W" (no) to whether diversity was a goal when he was picking his Cabinet (he said he went for the best person).

One woman advised him to use lots of anecdotes when he's writing his upcoming book about the big decisions he made during his presidency.

The personal touch worked - the kids lapped it up and hung around him afterward.

Friends say that besides writing his memoirs and embarking on a lucrative international speaking tour, Bush plans to stay active in such signature issues as combating AIDS and malaria in Africa, and supporting the families of fallen soldiers.

Groundbreaking for the George W. Bush Presidential Center is scheduled for the fall of 2010, with the grand opening expected in the spring of 2013.

The center will have three parts - a library, where Bush's papers will be stored; a museum of exhibits; and a policy institute, with plans for such novel programs as conversations with retired international leaders about their time in office.

The way presidential libraries work, the library and museum will be run by the government after they're built by the George W. Bush Foundation, which is chaired by Donald L. Evans, the president's longtime friend and former commerce secretary.

Evans, who has been planning the project since at least January 2005, said that Laura Bush has been very involved in creating the interpretation for the museum. He hinted that the displays would follow a format similar to the president's book, built around five or six big decisions, such as whether to go to war with Iraq.

Evans promises "an honest presentation of the very difficult choices the president had to make, but certainly an opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments of his presidency, as well," with an emphasis on "the values and principles that drive him."

The most interesting - and controversial - part of the plan is the George W. Bush Policy Institute, which will remain controlled by the president's foundation and will open well before the planned museum opening in 2013. (ANI)

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