Monday, December 31, 2012

Dec 31 - Dar's First Post - Bush Presidential Library

This is my first post on our blog. Thom's having writer's block. Not that there hasn't been anything to blog about, we've been doing a lot, just that now he's about 8 entries behind.  And as the old saying goes..."the behinder I am, the behinder I get" until the task starts to become overwhelming.  He likes his posts to be interesting, as well as a journal of our travels.  So in our discussion this morning over "his problem", he asked me what I would write about for our visit to the Bush Presidential Library... that wouldn't be the same ol' Bush did this and that, and then this and that.  We lived through the Bush years, so what did I find interesting about the library museum?  My mistake was telling him and now I've got myself into the position of writing this blog. I have asked his editing help, since he has such a way with words that I feel I lack. Passion and passionate I can get, but then putting it down in words becomes hard. So here it goes...

Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

Today we visited the presidential library of George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. It's set on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.  We were surprised by the number of buildings it encompasses.  Besides the museum and library buildings there are two others.  One is the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. The upper story of one of the buildings houses an apartment for George and Barbara when they visit College Station (often to watch one of the football games). A real treat for some visitors is getting a personal view of George or Barbara at the library museum.  A docent told us that Mrs Bush had been there 2 weeks ago to view the Christmas tree adorned with handmade needlepoint ornaments.  More on that in a bit. Former President George Bush has even parachuted onto the library  grounds proving that "old guys can still do stuff," as he kicked off his 75th birthday with a 12,500 foot jump. He also jumped out of perfectly good airplanes for his 80th and 85th birthdays. So one never knows who might "drop in" while your visiting.  At this writing former President Bush was in the hospital and recently moved out of intensive care following complications of bronchitis.

George Herbert Walker Bush was sworn in as president of the United States in January 1989 and served until January 1993. During his term in office, the Cold War ended; the threat of nuclear war was drastically reduced; the Soviet Union ceased to exist, replaced by a democratic Russia with the Baltic states becoming free; Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunified with Eastern Europe; and he put together an unprecedented coalition of 32 nations to liberate Kuwait. He was also only the second American president, at the time, to serve a full term without party control in either chamber of Congress. Nevertheless, among the laws President Bush signed into effect were the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols of the Cold War is the Berlin Wall. In one of the exhibits is a 12-foot tall section of wall, that once symbolized oppression, communism and division. As I looked at it there was a swell of emotions from sorrow and sympathy, for families separated and lives lost trying to escape, contrasted with elation they must have felt when the wall came down and families could reunite.

Little known to me was Barbara Bush's interest in needlepoint. She began doing needlepoint to keep from being bored listening to George's same speech a hundred times.  On display were a couple examples of purses she made.  I was drawn to the one showing scenes of Washington DC on it.  How do you describe what needlepoint is. I looked at various definitions to try and explain it to Thom. "Type of embroidery in which stitches are counted and worked with a needle over the threads or mesh of a canvas foundation" per Webster. Um...never mind. Most needlepoint designs completely cover the canvas. It's very tedious, tiny work. It appears like tapestry when done, the difference being tapestry is done on a special type loom. Having done some of this type work myself, I was completely awed to see a photo of a 10-by-14-foot needlepoint rug Mrs Bush made.  It took her almost 9 years to complete and laid on the family sitting room floor at the White House.  While under construction, sections of the rug, in basket weave on No. 10 canvas, accompanied the Bushes to 17 countries and 36 states. The design included personal data, such as grandchildrens' initials and important family dates.

photo of Mrs. Bush's needlepoint rug from George Bush Presidential Library and Museum website
There were a couple of holiday themed needlepoint displays in the museum. One is a needlepoint creche scene that was stitched by the "Saintly Stitchers" of Saint Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. It contains 54 characters and was presented to President and Mrs. Bush in 1989. This creche inspired the needlepoint display of Noah's Ark and ornaments that were used on the 1991 White House Christmas Tree.

Back to the docent telling us about Barbara Bush's visit 2 weeks ago to view the 18-foot Christmas tree at the library museum. It's covered with needlepoint ornaments and surrounded by needlepoint buildings that were from the 1991 White House Christmas tree.   214 members of the "Saintly Stitchers" and 271 White House staff and volunteers stitched for two years on these one-of-a-kind ornaments. The 1,200 ornaments plus buildings have been packed away since former President and Mrs. Bush left the White House Jan 1993. This is the first time they've been displayed since. For me this was very exciting. The detail work was phenomenal. All the staff at the museum were excited, talking about it and having their pictures taken beside this historic tree before it gets taken down. I would too, if I were I did.