Following is an excerpt from the remarks of President George W. Bush at today's dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library:
In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.
And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom. (Applause.) I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart. Freedom inspired our founders and preserved our union through civil war and secured the promise of civil rights. Freedom sustains dissidents bound by chains, believers huddled in underground churches and voters who risk their lives to cast their ballots. Freedom unleashes creativity, rewards innovation and replaces poverty with prosperity. And ultimately, freedom lights the path to peace.
Freedom brings responsibility. Independence from the state does not mean isolation from each other. A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors and the strong protect the weak and public policies promote private compassion. As president, I tried to act on these principles every day. It wasn’t always easy, and it certainly wasn’t always popular.
One of the benefits of freedom is that people can disagree. It’s fair to say I created plenty of opportunities to exercise that right. (Laughter.)
But when future generations come to this library and study this administration, they’re going to find out that we stayed true to our convictions -- (applause) -- that we expanded freedom at home by raising standards in schools and lowering taxes for everybody -- (applause) -- that we liberated nations from dictatorship and freed people from AIDS and that when our freedom came under attack, we made the tough decisions required to keep the American people safe. (Applause.)
The same principles define the mission of the presidential center. I’m retired from politics -- happily so, I might add -- but not from public service. We’ll use our influences to help more children to start life with a quality education, to help more Americans find jobs and economic opportunity, to help more countries overcome poverty and disease, to help more people in every part of the world live in freedom.
We’ll work to empower women around the world to transform their countries, stand behind the courageous men and women who have stepped forward to wear the uniform of the United States to defend our flag and our freedoms here at home.
Ultimately, the success of a nation depends on the character of its citizens. As president, I had the privilege to see that character up close. I saw it in the first responders who charged up the stairs into the flames to save people’s lives from burning towers. I saw it in the Virginia Tech professor who barricaded his classroom door with his body until his students escaped to safety. I saw it in the people of New Orleans that made homemade boats to rescue their neighbors from the floods, saw it in the service members who laid down their lives to keep our country safe and to make other nations free.
Franklin Roosevelt once described the dedication of a library as an act of faith. I dedicate this library with an unshakable faith in the future of our country. It was the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation’s best days lie ahead. God bless.