Nightly News   |  April 25, 2013

Presidents dedicate Bush Presidential Library

Former President George W. Bush celebrated the dedication of his Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas on Thursday. NBC’s David Gregory reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in dallas, texas, one of those moments in history. all of the living presidents at an event that's an expected part of your post presidency, the opening of your presidential library . in this case, george w. bush . it was a ceremony of laughter, camaraderie, genuine emotion. david gregory has our report from the smu campus in dallas.

>> reporter: it is a rare sight -- the five men who make up the most exclusive club in the world. four formers and the current president, politicians all, who today in texas put politics aside. all here for president george w. bush . back in the spotlight he's sought to avoid. his sense of humor unchanged.

>> there was a time in my life when i wasn't likely to be found at a library, much less found one.

>> reporter: what these men share is respect for how difficult the job is.

>> there are moments where you make mistakes. there are times where you wish with you could turn back the clock . what i know is true about president bush and i hope my successor will say about me is that we love this country and we do our best.

>> reporter: president bill clinton spoke about his work with george herbert walker bush after leaving office.

>> people began to joke i was getting so close to the bush family i add become the black sheep son. my mother told me not to talk too long today. barbara, i will not let you down.

>> reporter: president jimmy carter credited bush for his initiatives against aids and poverty in africa.

>> i'm filled with admiration and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you have made to the most needy people on earth.

>> reporter: it was the presence of a frail, elder president bush that made the day even more special.

>> this is special for barbara and me.

>> reporter: with help he stood to acknowledge the crowd. as for the library itself, the archives include 43,000 artifacts including a piece of twisted steel from the world trade center . the 9/11 attacks coming only eight months into mr. bush's first term are a central theme.

>> when our freedom came under attack we made tough decisions required to keep the american people safe.

>> reporter: what critics will seize on is the iraqer war is treated as part and parcel of the war on terror , an argument many reject. but president bush told matt lauer the exhibit is factual.

>> do you think you will convince people that was an unjust war, the wrong war at the wrong time that perhaps you were right?

>> look, the whole purpose is to lay out the facts as i saw them at the time. people will make their own judgments.

>> reporter: today was not a day for disagreements. it was, instead, a day for family and country. a day to see a former leader, however divisive as a man.

>> the honor to lead a country as brave and noble as the united states . whatever challenges come before us, i will always believe our nation's best days lie ahead. god bless . [ applause ]

>> reporter: understandable emotion from the formerer president. i had a chance to speak with with former british prime minister tony blair in an interview that will air on sunday on "meet the press." he said after taking that in with the great accent, he said what a wonderful advertisement for america.

>> summer vacation season, it oh occurs to me, almost upon us . i hope americans see the presidential libraries across the country. david, thank you.