James L. "Skip" Rutherford III, the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, writes for the Dallas Morning News today, the eve of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Rutherford, as president of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library Foundation, was the point man for the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, which marked its grand opening on a rainy November day in 2004.
In his column today, Rutherford cites the economic and educational effects the Clinton Library has had on Little Rock, including "$2 billion in economic development investment, including new hotels, housing, businesses and office buildings, in the surrounding area." And he predicts similar effects for the Bush library.
And of course there's also the matter of politics. Rutherford notes that, like all other presidential libraries, the Bush library should transcend partisan politics for the sake of history and learning. "Partisanship," Rutherford said, "was never a concern."
Presidential libraries represent a post-presidential spirit that puts aside much of the politics involved in running for and holding our country’s highest elected office. This spirit is evidenced by the work of President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton after the 2004 Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as a similar partnership between President Clinton and President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Presidential libraries also represent a uniting symbol for the communities in which they are located. They generate new jobs and tourism, and they affect the intellectual and cultural dynamics of their regions.
From the Archives
Looking Very Presidental - Inside the Clinton Library, an Arkansas Business cover story from Nov. 15, 2004.