msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/18/2004 3:07:44 PM ET 2004-11-18T20:07:44

President Bush and two other former presidents were the guests of honor at Thursday's dedication of the Clinton Presidential Center.

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Only 91-year-old Gerald Ford was among former presidents absent, a group that grew smaller last summer with the death of Ronald Reagan.

Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican George Bush, both 80, and their wives attended and together with President Bush paid tribute to the Clinton era.

Below are quotes from the speeches that Clinton and the other three men gave.

President Clinton
“The record is all in there — what we did at home, and what we did abroad. ... Even when we fell short, we pushed ahead.”

“I once said to a friend of mine about three days before the election ... ’You know, am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George W. Bush and John Kerry, who believes they’re both good people, who believes they both love our country and they just see the world differently?”

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President Bush
“President Clinton led our country with optimism and a great affection for the American people and that affection has been returned. He was an innovator, a serious student of policy and a man of great compassion. In the White House, the whole world witnessed his brilliance and his mastery of detail, his persuasive powers and his persistence.”

"Arkansas is a state that knows political skill when you see it. A fellow in Saline County was asked by his son why he liked Governor Clinton so much. He said, 'Son, he'll look you in the eye, he'll shake your hand, he'll hold your baby, he'll pet your dog — all at the same time.'"

"The president is not the kind to give up a fight. His staffers were known to say, 'If Clinton were the Titanic, the iceberg would sink.'"

"In all his actions and decisions, the American people sensed a deep empathy for the poor and the powerless. Shortly before leaving office, President Clinton said, 'Christ admonished us that our lives will be judged by how they do unto the least of our neighbors.' Throughout his career, Bill Clinton has done his best to live up to that standard and Americans respect him for it."

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Former President Bush
Clinton was “one of the most gifted American political figures. Trust me, I learned it the hard way. ... Simply put, he was a natural. And he made it look too easy. And oh, how I hated him for that.”

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Former President Carter
Clinton “was a leader who could inspire other people to go beyond what they thought were their own limits in accomplishing great goals.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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