After seeing President Barack Obama sworn in at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, outgoing President George Bush and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, flew to the town in west Texas where they first met. They were welcomed home in Midland by an estimated 20,000 people. In remarks to the crowd, Bush spoke in support of the new president and highlighted what he views as his own accomplishments during eight years in office.
Mr. Bush spoke with an enthusiasm and energy seldom seen in recent years as he addressed the crowd of well-wishers in downtown Midland. He told them he was optimistic about the nation's future and that he was happy to be back home.
"Today was a great day for America and a good man took the oath of office and we all offer prayers for his success," said Bush. "Today is also a great day for the Bush family. We are back in the state of Texas and we are here to stay!"
Bush said he came home with a sense of accomplishment. He went on to list some of those achievements, including improvements in education, programs to fight malaria and HIV around the world and the fight against terrorism, which he began after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
"No matter if you agree with my decisions or not, one thing they have to agree with is that we have not been attacked in the last seven years," he said.
After Mr. Bush's visit to Midland, where he grew up and where he met his wife, Laura, the former president flew to Dallas, where he and Mrs. Bush will reside. Mr. Bush said he left the decision of selecting their house to his wife and that this is his first visit to their new home.
Dallas will also be home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Bushes plan to visit their central Texas ranch near the tiny town of Crawford on occasion.
George Bush left office with some of the lowest approval ratings of any recent president. Even some members of his own Republican Party shunned him in recent years. During last year's presidential campaign, the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, distanced himself from Mr. Bush and many of his policies.
The Iraq War was the central point of contention for most Bush critics. Anti-war protesters claimed he had used false intelligence to push the nation into a conflict that had nothing to do with the overall war on terrorism. Bush defenders said the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has made the world a safer place and provided a chance for democracy to take hold in a Middle East nation.
It may take decades for some of these issues to be viewed with dispassionate perspective, but even many of Mr. Bush's critics give him credit for having handled the presidential transition with grace and dignity.
In an opinion article in The New York Times newspaper on Monday, Bush critic Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute praised the 43rd president for accommodating the change of government. He wrote, "The Bush administration may be leaving the country with big policy problems. But George W. Bush deserves a big gold star for the way he is leaving his office."
Ornstein and other scholars hail America's smooth presidential transition as a hallmark of the nation's system of government that allows for the peaceful and orderly transfer of power.