Kendra Lyn, NBC 5 News
Former deputy press secretary to George W. Bush, Tony Fratto, discusses the exhibits inside the Bush Presidential Center.
NBC 5 got a sneak peek of the George W. Bush Presidential Center a day before Thursday's dedication.
It’s taken just over two years to build the center, a complex larger than 11 football fields that include the library, museum and a surrounding park.
Former first lady Laura Bush said she couldn’t be more proud.
“We are thrilled you’re here,” said Bush, an SMU graduate who has been working for years crafting the center.
Anita McBride, the first lady's former chief of staff, said she talks with Bush almost daily and that the dedication is a reunion for many in the administration.
“They’re both thrilled. She was chair of the design committee, landscaping committee. Her presence is felt throughout. The president trusted her with that. They’re partners in everything they’ve done together in their public and private lives,” said McBride.
Their lives are on display, as well as the decisions made by the president during his two terms in office. Inside, there’s a replica of the Oval Office, where Bush Press Secretary Tony Fratto watched President Bush weigh the direction of the country.
“In any presidency there are controversial moments, achievements. I think you’ll be able to see all that here. The decisions about 9/11, the War in Iraq, education,” said Fratto.
A steel beam from the World Trade Center and the bullhorn the president used to talk to first responders at Ground Zero are just two of the 43,000 artifacts on display.
“I think people will be moved by the 9/11 exhibit, and that’s important. We still live with the effects of 9/11,” said Bush.
Thursday, hundreds of dignitaries, including President Barack Obama and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, will celebrate its completion at the dedication ceremony.
“These five men who will be with us tomorrow, they only know the pressure and burden you bear in that job. Seeing them together is important for the country,” Fratto said.
The five men haven’t been together since 2009, when President Bush hosted them at the White House for lunch ahead of Obama’s inauguration.
Fratto said when you have one president at an event, safety is a concern. Security is already stepped up and will get even tighter on Thursday with all five expected to be in attendance.