Today we drove north to College Station, TX. The Houston area still has quite a few brightly colored trees. The farther north we drove today, we saw less and less color. Still it was a nice drive. It seemed to be a country of wide open spaces.
One of our goals is to visit all 12 of the Presidential Libraries. In 2013 there will be 13 when George W. Bush’s library will be completed. Guess we’ll just have to make another trip back to this great state! Today we visited George Bush Presidential Library and Museum (#41). It’s our third library behind William J. Clinton Library and Museum and Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
Before I tell you about our day let me give my opinion about Presidential Libraries and politics. A few years ago I read several autobiographies of recent First Ladies. One of them (I believe Barbara Bush) admonished her readers not to let politics get in the way of visiting a Presidential Library. I wholeheartedly agree! The museums aren’t just a about that particular president but are a history of the years of that president. So far they have been the best museums that we have seen on recent history. They are interesting, unique and interactive. Each are a bit self-serving but also surprisingly honest in some areas. We’ve learned fascinating and amusing facts about each man as a private individual and about the man as president. I think one of the best areas of each museum are those that deal with life in the White House and what it’s like to be president and first lady. The gifts of state are intriguing. Much of each library is really very neutral. For children, it’s a first hand look on the politics that will affect their life someday. Please don’t let politics stand in the way of visiting these very interesting and unique museums. Oh, and the same goes for Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. It is a gem!
The George H. W. Bush Library and Museum is very beautiful and interactive. We got the added bonus of visiting at Christmas. Surrounding a large Christmas tree in the foyer, was a village handcrafted out of plastic canvas. This village was part of a White House Christmas display while President Bush was in office and was made by a sewing group from a church in Houston. There were also several items that had been handcrafted for the museum by some of its many volunteers.
Our first stop was a short movie about President Bush. Every library has these films. They are a must. I recommend that you try to watch them before touring the rest of the museum. So far we have toured two museums from presidents in my and Barry’s adult life. We are amazed at some of the events (some major) we have forgotten. These movies are a great refresher and also add a cohesiveness to the exhibits. Make sure you also pick up maps to the museum so you don’t miss anything.
Some of our favorite parts of this library were the dolls of each first lady wearing their inaugural gowns, a doll house size White House for the kids to crawl inside, a small replica of the oval office that you could actually walk into (you can’t at Clinton or LBJ), and the section about President Bush’s service in WWII. I greatly enjoyed the section about his time as a diplomat to China. I remembered how Mrs. Bush wrote very fondly about that time in her book. There is a very neat display about the White House itself that enables you to take virtual tours of some of its rooms.
By far the best part of the museum is an interactive program for the kids called Millie’s Adventures. Throughout the museum are fifteen cute little doghouses with a stuffed dog (Millie, the Bush’s famous springer spaniel) sitting on top. The children pick up a Millie’s Adventures packet at the front desk that contains fifteen questions. The answers are found on little bones inside each doghouse. Eva loved this!! There was a lot about the museum that truly interested her but finding the answers in each doghouse made her investigate each area a little more. For example, one of the doghouses had to do with George Bush’s baseball mitt. After Eva answered the question, we read about the mitt in the nearby display. We found out that the President kept the mitt in a desk drawer in the Oval Office. We went to the desk and sure enough, there was the mitt in one of the drawers. She probably would have missed this if she wasn’t answering each question in the packet.
As we left, the girls stopped at computers to receive a letter from either President Bush or the First Lady. Jenna chose the President and the other two girls chose Mrs. Bush. They typed their names into the computer and chose from a list of questions. A letter was printed immediately. The letters are really neat and longer than we expected.
After leaving the library, we drove through the campus of Texas A & M. We were amazed at how spread out the campus is. We especially enjoyed the beautiful flower beds that are in full bloom. The flowers, along with the 63 degree weather, made it feel like spring. A little strange for December 28!