Clinton Presidential Library Opens



President Bush took part in ceremonies Thursday opening the presidential library of his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

It was "Hail to the Chief" for four presidents in Little Rock as President Bush and former President Clinton were joined by former President Jimmy Carter and former President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Thousands of people gathered under a heavy rain along the Arkansas River for the dedication of the privately-funded, $165 million museum housing more than 80 million documents from the Clinton administration.

President Bush praised the former Arkansas governor for his optimism and affection, calling him a serious student of policy and a man of great compassion.

"Visitors to this place will be reminded of the great promise of our country and the dreams that came true in the life of our 42nd president," he said. "The William J. Clinton Presidential Library is a gift to the future by a man who always believed in the future. And today, we thank him for loving and serving America."

President Clinton thanked President Bush for attending the ceremony, joking that by winning re-election, Mr. Bush has delayed the opening of his own library by four more years.

"I congratulate you on your election and I wish you God's speed, especially in a new and more hopeful time for peace in the Middle East," he said. "I remember the first time I every heard George W. Bush give a speech in Iowa, and I called a friend of mine and said, 'My God, that guy can beat us. He is a good politician.' "

Like nearly all the speakers, President Clinton and his wife, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the need for Americans to unite following a tough election season.

Visitors to this new glass and steel museum can see exhibits highlighting the former president's efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and the Middle East. For the $7 admission fee, people can see a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and many of the gifts Mr. Clinton received abroad.

There is also a section entitled "The Fight For Power" portraying the president's battles with Congressional Republicans, his impeachment, and his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The museum dedication brought together many former members of the Clinton administration and leading figures in the Democratic Party, including President Bush's last two unsuccessful challengers: former Vice President Al Gore and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Following the ceremonies, the president now heads for Santiago, Chile and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, after a stopover at this Texas ranch.

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