DALLAS — Former President George W. Bush was set to break ground Tuesday on his presidential center in Dallas, with donors, friends and former administration officials expected to attend.
The George W. Bush Presidential Center, located on the campus of Dallas' Southern Methodist University, will include a library and a policy institute. It's expected to open by 2013.
"There is a tremendous amount of excitement," said James K. Glassman, the executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, who noted that plans for the center date back to early in the president's first term.
Among the Bush administration officials expected to attend Tuesday's event are Condoleezza Rice, former national security adviser and secretary of state; Ari Fleisher, former White House press secretary; Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett, former counselors to the president; Josh Bolten, former chief of staff; and Don Evans, former commerce secretary.
The 225,000-square-foot center will be a modern brick and limestone building set amid a Texas-inspired landscape including wildflowers and prairies.
The center's institute already has started its work and is focusing on education reform, global health, human freedom and economic growth. It has offered several programs, including one empowering women and girls in Afghanistan and a certification program meant to help principals better manage schools.
"Even before we have a building, we're already very hard at work," Glassman said.
An exhibit set to run through Feb. 6 at the university's Meadow's Museum gives the public its first glimpse into Bush's archives, including the bullhorn he used when he visiting ground zero days after Sept. 11 and the pistol taken from Saddam Hussein when the Iraqi dictator was captured in December 2003.
The presidential library's permanent exhibit will be centered on themes of freedom, opportunity, compassion and responsibility. The library also will have a "decision theater," where museum-goers can hear a set of facts, then try to decide what they would have done.
Bush — largely out of the public eye after leaving office and returning to Texas — has been back in the spotlight with the release of his book "Decision Points" last week, signing copies in Dallas and appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
After SMU was announced as a potential site for the center, some SMU faculty members and Methodist ministers expressed opposition, with much of the concern centered on the institute and what kind of policies it would be promoting.
About two dozen anti-war protesters gathered on campus Monday. Protesters also planned a rally to coincide with Tuesday's groundbreaking.
George W. Bush Presidential Center, http://www.georgewbushcenter.com/
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