Surrounded by veterans of his administration, former President George W. Bush broke ground on his presidential center on Tuesday and promised to continue to advance the "principles that guided our service in public office."
"We believe that America's interest and conscience demand engagement in the world, because what happens elsewhere inevitably affects us here," Bush said at a ceremony at the future site of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a library, museum and think tank to be built on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Attendees at the ceremony included several Bush administration alumni, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Vice President Dick Cheney. The event capped a week of publicity for the former president, who published his memoir, "Decision Points," last week.
Bush made reference to the book in his remarks Tuesday, noting that it had put a spotlight on his relationship with the former vice president. The book disclosed that the president had considered dropping Cheney from the ticket before the 2004 reelection campaign. It noted that Cheney was viewed as "dark and heartless -- the Darth Vader of the administration."
On Tuesday, Bush called Cheney "the right pick in the year 2000, and, as I stand here, there is no doubt in my mind he was the right pick then; he was a great vice president of the United States."
The Bush Center is to house an archive of White House papers and a presidential museum. It is also expected to be home to the Bush Institute, a think tank working for education reform, global health, economic growth and human freedom. Former First Lady Laura Bush is already leading the institute's women's initiative: A program aimed at improving the quality of the nation's school principals was launched this fall.
Bush said his engagement in public policy does not signal a reentry into politics.
"The decisions of governing are on another president's desk, and he deserves to make them without criticism from me," he said.
Cheney, however, didn't hold back from needling the current Democratic president.
"This may be the only shovel-ready project in America," Cheney joked in his remarks.
He then praised the former president, who left office with dismal approval ratings.
"Two years after your tour at the White House ended, judgments are a little more measured than they were," Cheney said. "When times had been tough, and the critics had been loud, you always said you had faith in history's judgment. And history is beginning to come around."