5 presidents appear at George W. Bush Presidential center

A rare gathering of presidents: Hail to the chiefs

DALLAS - The five living U.S. presidents appeared together Thursday  at the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Bush and President Barack Obama, along with former Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, were introduced to the gathering, along with their wives.

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Obama along with the former presidents gave remarks on the stage flanked by American flags in front of the entrance to the library.

The center on the campus of Southern Methodist University includes the presidential library and museum along with the 43rd president's policy institute. The center opens to the public May 1.

A crowd of about 10,000 was gathered for the outdoor ceremony under clear blue skies with morning temperatures in the 50s.

On a day when politics was set aside, the Presidentt Obamat described his Republican predecessor as a "good man" and as a leader who demonstrated strength, resolve and compassion.

Obama called the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center a "Texas-sized party" befitting the former president.

The president said, "It's impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it's yours."

Former President Bill Clinton joked that he's become so close to the Bushes that he's become "the black sheep son."

Clinton said Bush had a beautiful library and that his institute's work was inspiring.

Clinton also noted that Bush had beaten him to becoming a grandfather and joked with him about his newfound hobby of painting.

Clinton and another former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, both noted Bush's humanitarian causes. Wearing dark sunglasses, Carter credited Bush for helping broker a peace treaty in Sudan after he took office.

George H.W. Bush received a standing ovation as he honored his son.

The former president was seated Thursday in Dallas next to his son as he smiled and congratulated the 43rd president. The elder Bush suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that has forced him in recent years to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair to get around.  He has been hospitalized recently for bronchitis.

George H.W. Bush spoke for just a brief minute while seated, thanking guests for coming out to support his son. But attendees rose from their seats, cheering, when the elder Bush briefly rose from his seat.

His son,  George W. Bush joked there was a time in his life that he "wasn't likely to be found in a library, much less found one."

He delivered several jokes Thursday during his speech at the dedication ceremony for his library and museum at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.

Bush said America must work to "expand the reach of freedom." Tears welled in his eyes as he concluded, saying the nation's best days are ahead.

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