Presidential Inauguration

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Ron Edmonds/AP

President Bush: Leaving the White House

January 16, 2009
by Lindsey Chapman
This month, President Bush will hand over leadership of the country to President-elect Barack Obama. What do he and his wife Laura plan to do after they leave the White House, and what are some of the things they’ll miss the most?

Packing Up

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President Bush has already started packing his belongings for his moving day. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the Bushes don’t have a lot of belongings to move. No one will “see a big Ryder truck pulling up to the White House,” she quipped. Mostly the president and first lady will be packing up books, a little furniture and some mementos they gathered during their travels.

Bush’s staff members are packing their belongings, too. Boxes line the West Wing, and in just a few days, BlackBerrys and government badges will be turned in. Rather than feeling defeat, a sense of achievement is present among workers, who have “been through the crucible of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, two wars, a hurricane of biblical proportions and the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” writes The New York Times.

Things They’ll Miss

During her last Christmas in the White House, First Lady Laura Bush said she started feeling a little sentimental about the things she would be leaving behind. “I’m sad to leave all the people that I’ve liked so much and that I’ve had a chance to build a friendship with over the years that I’ve been here. I’m sad to leave this beautiful house,” she remarked. Her family has extensive memories of the White House. She said the White House florist made her daughters first feel welcome at the mansion when they were just seven years old by helping them make bouquets for their rooms when their grandfather was inaugurated.

President Bush has some things he’ll be sorry to leave behind, too. During a speech in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he said he will miss “spending time with men and women who have volunteered to serve the United States of America.”

“That speech ‘made me weep,’” CNN quoted Mrs. Bush as saying.

The Dinner Legacy

Dinner parties are a big affair at the White House, and it takes a lot of dishes to host a gathering. Over the last 200 years, different presidents have acquired official dinner services—not only to feed their guests with, but to help showcase foods and styles popular during their administrations. Not all the dishes have survived the test of time, however. A majority of them have broken pieces, which can make for a difficult situation if the president wants to feed a large crowd on a full set of dishes.

President and Mrs. Bush are leaving the White House with two new sets of china, one for private entertaining, and another for state dinners. The dishes came at a hefty price. One set cost $74,000, and the other rang in at $492,798. The new dinnerware was paid for with funds raised by the White House Historical Association Acquisition Trust.

Welcome Home

When President Bush headed to Washington in 2001, he was sent off with a farewell rally from his childhood home of Midland, Texas. On Jan. 20, after President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in, the former president will return to Midland with several long-time friends for a welcome home event, and spend a few days at his ranch in Crawford.

The president and his wife plan to spend their weeks at a new home in Dallas, and their weekends at the ranch. As he has reflected on his years as president over recent weeks, President Bush said the experience has been a good one, despite having tough moments. In an exit interview with ABC News, he stated, “One of the things about the presidency is you deal with a lot of tragedy—whether it be hurricanes, or tornadoes, or fires, or death—and you spend time being the Comforter-in-Chief. But the idea of being able to serve a nation you love is—has been joyful. In other words, my spirits have never been down. I have been sad, but the spirits are up.”

Once he’s settled in Dallas, President Bush said he looks forward to the time he starts disappearing from the public eye. He said his father told him that eventually “you just fade out,” and he’s fine with the idea. In fact, he said, “The faster the fade the better.”
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