President Bush Makes Surprise Visit to SMU Government Class

Former President George W. Bush made a surprise stop at SMU on Tuesday, speaking to a class and visiting with students.

George Bush at SMU on Feb. 24, 2009

SMU (DALLAS) — Thirty SMU students in an American government course got a special lesson today from the man at the pinnacle of political decision-making for the past eight years – the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.

George Bush at SMU on Feb. 24, 2009
See a slide show of former President Bush's visit to SMU. camera icon

Harold W. Stanley, the Geurin-Pettus Professor of American politics and political economy in SMU’s Dedman College, took advantage of the fact that Mr. Bush is back in Dallas to arrange the surprise visit for his class on the American Political System.

When the class was assembled, SMU President R. Gerald Turner walked in the room behind Stanley. Turner said, "Does everyone recognize the 43rd President of the United States?" as Mr. Bush walked in. Students applauded "but you could tell they were just shocked," Turner said.

"President Bush began his remarks by talking about leadership," Stanley said. "The students were free to ask about anything and everything. They were interested in his plans for the presidential library and institute, his views on the current economic crisis, the stimulus plans, whether he had seen "W," whether he thought about the framers of the Constitution while he was president, and a wide range of other issues."

"One of his principal points was to stress the place of idealism in politics," Stanley said. "Japan and the United States were enemies during World War II but have been allies in the post 9-11 struggle. He commented that although now it sounds idealistic to envision peace in the Middle East, the years ahead may bring that about."

In response to a question about the forthcoming Bush Institute, he said he hoped it would promote values such as freedom through speakers, debates and other forums involving people from around the world. He said he hoped young people with various points of view would become involved with the Institute.

George Bush at SMU on Feb. 24, 2009 "Today made me want to be more involved in politics. Just being in the same room with the President of the United States was amazing, and I never thought the day would come for this to happen," said Amanda Shelton, a sophomore from Denton, Texas.

Andrew Haskett, a senior from LaJolla, California, majoring in public policy, said he was impressed by President Bush’s comments on the importance of following one’s values in making decisions, no matter how controversial. "I would hope all public officials would follow that guideline."

President Bush stayed for more than an hour. As he left the Fondren Science Building, where the class was held, more than 200 other students congregated for greetings and picture-taking.

A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, nearly 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.

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