Friday, June 20, 2014

Totally Texas -- A monument to a Texas president

George W. Bush Presidential Center

2943 SMU Boulevard

Dallas, Texas


The monument on the hill to our 43rd president has been open more than a year, and I confess, despite it being practically in my East Dallas neighborhood, I’ve stalled about going there. Until this week. It is as awesome as everybody has said, but I like the boys’ verdicts best. Voting with their feet (or maybe their seats), they had to be pried loose from the computer games featuring ex-White House first dog, Barney.

“The computers are very child-friendly,” confided one of the very friendly docents stationed throughout the museum. No kidding. The boys, just out of second grade, figured out in a few minutes that no matter what activities they put virtual Barney through, he’d still end up being rewarded with a nap. A win-win situation.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of child-friendly activities available, from a children’s reading room with a copy of one of the boys’ old favorites, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (and a statue of late White House cat India reading a book), to the gorgeous multimedia presentation in entrance hall (repeating every quarter hour), to the reconstruction of the White House’s Oval Office where visitors are encouraged to sit behind a copy of the same desk presidents have since the days of John F. Kennedy.

For adults, but still on the light side, were depictions of the White House’s famous Lincoln Bedroom, formal dining room, and the presidential airplane and helicopter, the president’s baseball collection.

There are also more serious exhibits: news footage of the 9/11 attacks that occurred before the boys were born and a hunk of scarred steel from one of the bombed twin towers, the war in Iraq, a map depicting the devastation of AIDS (support for anti-retroviral treatment was one of the president’s initiatives).

Despite, or maybe because of emphasis on gee-whiz aspects of the presidency, there’s little room for cause and effect in the museum. The boys enjoyed spinning an interactive globe that tracked the increase in democratic governments over the past century. But they were left with no idea of the events that led to those changes. Maybe the center’s founders believe the more controversial aspects of George W. Bush’s presidency are best left to adult researchers in the library archives, leaving the museum proper little to say about the 2000 election, the problematic No Child Left Behind policy, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or the 2008 world financial crisis.

The center is located on the SMU campus at 2943 SMU Boulevard in Dallas. It’s open Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday from noon - 5 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for those age 62 and older, graduated prices for children and youth, and directions. Parking at the lot across the street from the center is $7.

Tickets are available at the entrance or online at .

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