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In a gathering of presidents, a model for Washington

Five current and past US presidents met Thursday for the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library The conviviality and civility should set a standard for politicians.


President Barack Obama stands with former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas April 2.

AP Photo

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Few nations of the world would be able to witness an event like the one that occurred in Dallas on Thursday. Five current and past presidents of the United States gathered like old friends to praise one of their own.

President Obama and Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush were on hand to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

No politics of personal destruction. No mudslinging. All civility.

The meeting was a rare event of Oval Office veterans. The last such gathering of five presidents was for the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library in 1991. This one was notable by their common desire to focus on what one president did right and his favorable qualities.

“To know the man is to like the man,” Mr. Obama spoke of Mr. Bush. “He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.”

Mr. Carter, a strong critic of Bush, commended him for his successes in Sudan and in fighting AIDS. “I’m filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you’ve made to the most needy people on earth.”

But more than the likability or the triumphs of Bush II, this historic conclave of three Democratic and two Republican presidents served as a reminder of how a democracy both defines political differences and can also heal them – if enough politicians exhibit charity, respect, and perhaps even friendship toward those with opposing views.


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