Commentary: Bush library aims to be 'a vital hub of critical thought'

The country's 13th presidential library operated by the National Archives and Records Administration is expected to be completed in 2013, and it will be in Texas — home to more such libraries than any other state.

Plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, to be located on the Southern Methodist University campus, were unveiled in ceremonies last week. They reveal a three-story, understated but elegantly modern brick and limestone building that will reflect Texas from without and within.

Sitting on 23 acres and surrounded by "quintessentially Texas landscape" of bluebonnets, a wildflower meadow, tall-grass prairie and savannah and woodland, the center will house an archive as well as the Bush Institute, a privately funded public policy initiative.

Early criticism of the presidential center from some members of the SMU family and noncampus protesters centered around the institute, which many felt would simply be another conservative think tank designed to help rewrite the Bush legacy.

That is a bit disingenuous at best. Judging from the description of planned early programs and from the list of distinguished scholars and leaders who have been hired to help lead the institute, that wing of the center will be a tremendous asset to educational enrichment for the students and faculty of SMU and the larger public. It also will help provide worldwide initiatives benefiting diverse peoples, from those affected with HIV/AIDS in Africa to the education of women and girls in Afghanistan.

"The institute will be a vital hub of critical thought and practical action," Bush said last week. "It will be independent, nonpartisan and designed to make an impact in the world."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.