BUSH OUTLINES VISIONS FOR HIS INSTITUTE
By LINDA STEWART BALL / Associated Press
Education will be the first of four areas former President George W. Bush said his Dallas-based think tank will address.
Global health, human freedom and economic growth are the other focus areas, Bush said during a Thursday speech at Southern Methodist University.
The George W. Bush Institute will include an ongoing women’s initiative that his wife will lead.
“I’m especially excited about the women’s initiative,” Laura Bush said. “The women’s initiative will focus on advancing social and economic opportunities for women and girls around the world. It will be integrated into every part of the institute’s focus.”
The institute is set to begin in the spring of 2010 at SMU, Laura Bush’s alma mater.
It will be part of the $300 million Bush presidential center, which includes a library, museum and archives.
“The center will provide a platform for us to continue our public service for the rest of our lives,” the former president said, adding that its mission is to advance policy initiatives to boost freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion.
Bush, at times humorous and self-deprecating, outlined his vision for the institute to a crowd of about 1,500 friends and supporters, along with SMU faculty, students and staff.
“The institute will be independent and nonpartisan, with every project designed to make an impact in the real world,” Bush said.
Although controversy has surrounded the project with some faculty members expressing concern about whether it would be too partisan, the 43rd president attempted to ease some of those concerns.
On Thursday he announced that prominent education scholar James Guthrie would leave Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., to become director of education policy studies at the institute.
Guthrie is the Hart Professor of Educational Leadership and director of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Vanderbilt, which was ranked the No. 1 education school in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
He will join the faculty at SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development while serving as a senior fellow at the Bush Institute.
Bush said Guthrie will lead a program that researches ways to improve the quality of school leaders, including principals and administrators.
Former Dallas school board president Sandy Kress, who was also a Dallas County Democratic Party chairman, will be the institute’s Director of Education Policy Development and Outreach.
“This is a fitting place to start, because education was my top domestic priority as governor and president,” Bush said.
“I believe every child can learn, every school should be accountable for results, and measuring progress is the best way to ensure children master the basics,” Bush said, echoing his philosophy behind the No Child Left Behind Act.
State Rep. Dan Branch, the chairman of the House’s higher education committee, was one of many who applauded Bush’s institute.
“It would be hard to argue with the call to action on education, women’s issues, human freedom and global health initiatives,” Branch said. “I thought it was a very balanced approach and the experts that they’ve announced as the new fellows … I think there’s a real value add to SMU. You’ll have the leading thinkers and academics in these subjects come to campus.”