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At New Bush Library, Visitors Weigh In on Big Decisions

  • VOA News

Displays on presidential policy are seen during a tour of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, April 24, 2013.

Displays on presidential policy are seen during a tour of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, April 24, 2013.

The newest U.S. presidential museum opened Thursday. It recounts George W. Bush's eight tumultuous years in office, but it also gives visitors a chance to decide whether they would make the same key decisions he did.

Bush was the 43rd American president, serving from 2001-2009. During his two terms in his office, terrorists attacked the country on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. Under his watch, the U.S. started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was hit with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and endured the biggest economic meltdown since the days of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The $250 million museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, includes a vast collection of information from his presidency - 70 million pages of paper records and 43,000 artifacts. There's a full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it looked during his White House tenure, as well as a twisted steel beam from New York's World Trade Center that was demolished in the 9/11 attack.

A central exhibit at the museum - called "Decision Points Theater" - gives visitors a chance to watch footage of breaking news from the Bush era, listen to actors posing as officials and military leaders offering "advice" and make their own interactive choices on the key crises that Bush faced.

The former president then shows up on a screen justifying the decisions he made.

Bush, a Republican, left office as one of the country's most unpopular presidents, although recent surveys show his standing has improved somewhat with his absence from the American political scene. But he says he is content to let historians decide whether he made the correct choices.

''As far as I'm concerned. the debate is over. I mean, I did what I did, and historians will ultimately judge those decisions, " the former president said.

President Barack Obama and three former U.S. presidents: Bush's father, George H.W. Bush; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - attended the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
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