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Past, Present and Future US Presidents Meet at White House

There was a historic gathering at the White House of past, present and future U.S. presidents on Wednesday. It was a chance for President-elect Barack Obama to sit down with the members of a very exclusive club - the men who have held the nation's highest elective office.

The president-elect said he has a lot to learn from the men who have preceded him.

"This is an extraordinary gathering," he said. "All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office."

It was Mr. Obama who first suggested the meeting. President Bush arranged it.

"One message that I have, and I think we all share, is that we want you to succeed," President Bush said. "Whether we are Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country."

The two men posed for pictures with the three living former presidents in front of the carved wood desk in the Oval Office. The current president stood to one side of the president-elect. His father - former President George H.W. Bush - was on the other.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were also in attendance. Mr. Obama said he looked forward to hearing what they had to say.

"For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary," he said.

The actual discussions were held over a private lunch.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino predicted it would be a fascinating conversation.

"They will have a chance today to have a rare opportunity of being together in one room to share ideas and viewpoints, war stories and experiences here at the White House," she said.

This was the first time in 27 years that all of the living past presidents have gathered at the White House. The last time was in 1981, when then-President Ronald Reagan met with former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter prior to the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.