The four finalists for the George W. Bush Library were announced Thursday and, as a member of the journalism faculty at SMU, of course I hope that SMU gets the nod.
Bets have long been placed on SMU as the final pick because it is his wife’s alma mater. Other valid reasons include: SMU has a topnotch political science department that produces excellent programming, has ample space for document storage (having bought the old Mrs. Baird’s Bread property) and has convenient access to public transportation at Mockingbird Station. Plus, SMU knows how to put on classy, special events.
The president has said he wants his library to draw scholars to study issues of particular importance to him – freedom and democracy, compassionate conservatives, broad reform and economic reform. SMU clearly fills the bill.
However, the disadvantage to the Hilltop is that it might reinforce the elitist, frat-boy image that Bush has long tried to shed. For symbolic reasons, he might prefer a Library on the banks of the Brazos at Baylor, which would reinforce his image as a faith-based president who is close to the earth and home, as Waco is easy distance from his Crawford ranch. Bush has partnered events with both campuses, visiting SMU for election-eve rallies and having events such as his Economic Summit at Baylor.
As for University of Dallas, the Catholic University also provides a faith-based connection. UD has access to property near the old Texas Stadium but would seem to lack the convenience, access and personal tie that SMU or Baylor/Waco would provide. Finally, Texas Tech, with its proximity to Midland, once home to both W. and Laura, is being kept in the mix for the time being. (Don Evans, Bush’s old friend from Midland, heads the selection committee.) That one, off in the boonies, would be the surprise pick.
Bush has said he wants to be actively involved with his Library, which points toward Baylor or SMU.