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The Year in Review: Five Highlights of the 2016 Engagement Agenda
This year the George W. Bush Presidential Center welcomed its one millionth visitor, held nine sold-out Engage events, celebrated milestone birthdays with President and Mrs. Bush, built on a wonderful partnership with SMU, and joined in the excitement of a presidential election year. Whether in the Bush Center’s auditorium, the Museum’s outstanding exhibits, or in our Native Texas Park, we spent the year leveraging our engagement agenda to address the challenges and news of the day. Here are a few of our favorite highlights you may have missed.
Live from the Bush Center, It’s Saturday Night!
To debut The Path to the Presidency, our first special exhibit of 2016, Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, spent an evening at the Bush Center, providing an insightful and sharp-witted look at the relationship between the show, politics, and the presidential candidates.
“There’s always been political comedy,” said Michaels, during his on-stage conversation with Willie Geist of NBC News. “For me, it’s one of the great strengths of the country – that we make fun of our leaders, we make fun of religion, we make fun of all those things. [It’s] a safety valve. [It’s] the thing that allows us to be a country with some level of confidence.”
Pint-Sized Presidential Expert
This spring, Ellen DeGeneres sent Macey Hensley, her six-year-old presidential correspondent, to tour The Path to the Presidency. While at the Museum, she also visited the replica Oval Office, where she was interrupted by two very special guests – President and Mrs. George W. Bush. We rounded up a few of our favorite moments from the visit, including her private painting lesson in the Texas Rose Garden.
Welcome to Our Great Big Backyard
In May, Dallas-area families gathered at the Bush Center for an interactive Great Big Backyard Engage event. Kids visited activity stations in our Hall of State, handling turtles from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, making seed balls with Texan by Nature, and earning Junior Park Ranger certifications from the National Park Service.
Mrs. Bush joined the event to read Our Great Big Backyard – her newest title written with daughter Jenna Bush Hager – and encouraged all the children in attendance to enjoy nature’s beauty all around them, beginning in our own Native Texas Park.
The Bush Center Joins The Circus
In September, just days before the first presidential debate, Jim Lehrer, Ambassador Karen Hughes, and Senator Judd Gregg visited the Bush Center for Lights, Camera, Politics: A Look into Presidential Debates. Also in attendance – Mark McKinnon and the crew of Showtime’s The Circus. See the clip.
“[Debates are] the only time during a presidential campaign when the voters can see both candidates on the same stage, at the same time, talking about the same things,” explained veteran debate moderator Jim Lehrer. “What people are really looking for in these debates is ‘can this person handle the unexpected?’ Because…that is what being President of the United States is all about.”
President and Mrs. Bush Celebrate at 70
This year marked a major milestone, as both President and Mrs. Bush celebrated their 70th birthdays. More than 16,000 Museum visitors and online well-wishers signed cards for the Bushes online and at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
In October, they capped off the festivities with a birthday celebration at Prairie Chapel Ranch, headlined by country legend George Strait. See the photos at people.com.