you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Well,
good afternoon, everybody. Thank you, Fred,
for that introduction. To President George
H. W. Bush and Barbara, to all the members
of the Bush family who are here it
is a great privilege to have you here today.
And to President and Mrs. Bush, welcome
back to the house that you called home for
The White House is many things at once.
It's a working office, it's a living museum,
it's an enduring symbol of our democracy.
But at the end of the day, when the visitors
go home and the lights go down, a few of
us are blessed with the tremendous honor
to actually live here.
I think it's fair to say that every President
is acutely aware that we are just temporary
residents we're renters here. We're
charged with the upkeep until our lease
runs out. But we also leave a piece of ourselves
in this place. And today, with the unveiling
of the portraits next to me, President and
Mrs. Bush will take their place alongside
men and women who built this country and
those who worked to perfect it.
It's been said that no one can ever truly
understand what it's like being President
until they sit behind that desk and feel
the weight and responsibility for the first
time. And that is true. After three and
a half years in office and much more
gray hair (laughter) I have
a deeper understanding of the challenges
faced by the Presidents who came before
me, including my immediate predecessor,
In this job, no decision that reaches your
desk is easy. No choice you make is without
costs. No matter how hard you try, you're
not going to make everybody happy. I think
that's something President Bush and I both
learned pretty quickly. (Laughter.) And
that's why, from time to time, those of
us who have had the privilege to hold this
office find ourselves turning to the only
people on Earth who know the feeling. We
may have our differences politically, but
the presidency transcends those differences.
We all love this country. We all want America
to succeed. We all believe that when it
comes to moving this country forward, we
have an obligation to pull together. And
we all follow the humble, heroic example
of our first President, George Washington,
who knew that a true test of patriotism
is the willingness to freely and graciously
pass the reins of power on to somebody else.
That's certainly been true of President
Bush. The months before I took the oath
of office were a chaotic time. We knew our
economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans
were in pain, but we wouldn't know until
later just how breathtaking the financial
crisis had been. And still, over those two
and a half months in the midst of
that crisis President Bush, his Cabinet,
his staff, many of you who are here today,
went out of your ways George, you
went out of your way to make sure
that the transition to a new administration
was as seamless as possible.
President Bush understood that rescuing
our economy was not just a Democratic or
a Republican issue; it was a American priority.
I'll always be grateful for that.
The same is true for our national security.
None of us will ever forget where we were
on that terrible September day when our
country was attacked. All of us will always
remember the image of President Bush standing
on that pile of rubble, bullhorn in hand,
conveying extraordinary strength and resolve
to the American people but also representing
the strength and resolve of the American
And last year, when we delivered justice
to Osama bin Laden, I made it clear that
our success was due to many people in many
organizations working together over many
years across two administrations.
That's why my first call once American forces
were safely out of harm's way was to President
Bush. Because protecting our country is
neither the work of one person, nor the
task of one period of time, it's an ongoing
obligation that we all share.
Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and
I are grateful to the entire Bush family
for their guidance and their example during
our own transition.
George, I will always remember the gathering
you hosted for all the living former Presidents
before I took office, your kind words of
encouragement. Plus, you also left me a
really good TV sports package. (Laughter.)
I use it. (Laughter.)
Laura, you reminded us that the most rewarding
thing about living in this house isn't the
title or the power, but the chance to shine
a spotlight on the issues that matter most.
And the fact that you and George raised
two smart, beautiful daughters first,
as girls visiting their grandparents and
then as teenagers preparing to head out
into the world that obviously gives
Michelle and I tremendous hope as we try
to do the right thing by our own daughters
in this slightly odd atmosphere that we've
Jenna and Barbara, we will never forget
the advice you gave Sasha and Malia as they
began their lives in Washington. They told
them to surround themselves with loyal friends,
never stop doing what they love; to slide
down the banisters occasionally (laughter)
to play Sardines on the lawn; to
meet new people and try new things; and
to try to absorb everything and enjoy all
of it. And I can tell you that Malia and
Sasha took that advice to heart. It really
meant a lot to them.
One of the greatest strengths of our democracy
is our ability to peacefully, and routinely,
go through transitions of power. It speaks
to the fact that we've always had leaders
who believe in America, and everything it
stands for, above all else leaders
and their families who are willing to devote
their lives to the country that they love.
This is what we'll think about every time
we pass these portraits just as millions
of other visitors will do in the decades,
and perhaps even the centuries to come.
I want to thank John Howard Sanden, the
artist behind these beautiful works, for
his efforts. And on behalf of the American
people, I want to thank most sincerely President
and Mrs. Bush for their extraordinary service
to our country.
And now I'd like to invite them on stage
to take part in the presentation. (Applause.)
(Portraits are unveiled.)
by President George W. Bush