In 1988 Mark Langdale got new next-door neighbors in Dallas: Laura and George W. Bush. In short order the Langdales and Bushes became fast friends and like most neighbors, George W. asked Langdale for an occasional favor. But he wasn’t asking Langdale to loan him power tools or to pick up the mail when the Bushes were out of town.
The first major favor came when Bush asked Langdale, then President of Posadas USA, to help him run for governor of Texas. As governor, Bush asked Langdale to chair the Texas Department of Economic Development. Langdale later helped set up Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. In 2005 Bush asked Langdale to serve as ambassador to Costa Rica, where he focused on ratifying the Central America Free Trade Agreement. To complete the circle, in 2008 Bush asked Langdale to develop the plan that led to the dedication this past week of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The Bush Center is home to our nation’s 13th Presidential Library & Museum along with the George W. Bush Policy Institute. I had the privilege of guest co-hosting this week’s edition of Polioptics with my friend, Josh King. On the show Langdale offers a behind the scenes account of the making of the Bush Center, which houses:
- 34 interactive exhibits, including the compelling Decision Points Theater, which deploys the latest in gaming technology to enable up to 24 visitors at a time to make their own decisions on the invasion of Iraq, the 2007 troop surge, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis.
- 43,000 artifacts, including the bullhorn used by President Bush at Ground Zero and the pistol Saddam Hussein was carrying when captured
As our first digital president, the library also houses 200 million emails, 70 million pages of documents and 4 million photos.
Bush’s goal was simply to lay the facts out and give people a sense of his decision-making process. Unfiltered news accounts are used to recreate the consequential moments – and they are all there, including the 2000 recount, “no weapons of mass destruction” and to the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
I was fortunate to attend three days of events surrounding the dedication and what seemed to please President Bush the most was that 325,000 people from all 50 states contributed to the library – “some big, some small, all important.”
While Langdale has worked behind the scenes, we are also joined this week by two of the truly household names in political communications: Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and longtime Bush adviser, former Counselor to the President Karen Hughes.
Both offer their personal reflections on 9/11 and Hughes makes an impassioned defense of Bush’s record – something he is content to leave to history and the historians, who now have a magnificent place in which to do their research.