Public Papers

Remarks at the Unveiling of the Official Bust of the President


Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, distinguished leaders of both the House and the Senate, I'm just delighted to be here, and I want to especially thank Wendell Ford and Ted Stevens, who do such a wonderful job protecting and enhancing the history of this fantastic building in so many ways. It brings back to me so many happy memories of time spent on both ends of the Capitol -- 4 years in the House and 8 as the presiding officer, the President of the Senate.

So, I'm delighted to be here today. I can't quite get used to all this. I'm not even dead yet, and here -- [laughter] -- here is this magnificent sculpture by an old and dear friend of the Bushes, Walker Hancock. I believe I first met him when I was about 3 years old. He's been a special friend of our family. He, of course, is one of the most prominent sculptors -- most prominent in the whole country. I was proud to give him the National Medal of the Arts last year. I can tell you that he put a lot of time into this bust, having gone to Italy himself to see that it was finished properly, doing all the design and work himself. We've sat for him -- he was most understanding, came up to Camp David. We did some work in the White House.

Having this magnificent work, given what he had to work with -- [laughter] -- done by this outstanding American artist, makes it doubly, doubly special for us. I just couldn't be more pleased. And of course, I'm touched by the Members of the House and the Senate that have turned out for this.

My schedule read that it was time to motorcade to the Capitol for this unveiling of my bust, and I started worrying about the headlines on that one. [Laughter] No, not what you're thinking. ``Bush Goes For Bust,'' maybe, or ``Bush Gets Busted.'' [Laughter]

I am reminded of the time, though, that historians have written about George Washington. And they asked him why, in so many busts made of him, did he always have a curious smile on his face? Walker, I'm not sure this anecdote is true, but he explained that it all began when the sculptor Joseph Wright was first doing a life mask of him, oiling his face and applying the plaster. Just as the plaster was setting, Martha Washington walked into the room. Surprised to see the President this way, she let out a shriek. The President smiled, and the rest is history. [Laughter] That's a true story. And thank God Barbara Bush didn't walk into the room when Walker and I were working -- [laughter] -- or you could have had something less serious and perhaps not as proper for this austere building and this austere place.

I am very, very proud to be here, and I must say in conclusion that I can't express my feelings enough about this body. We have fights from time to time, obviously, but the days I spent here will always be remembered as perhaps the happiest times in my life. The friends crossed all the aisles. It wasn't just the gymnasium, either, Sonny; it was far more than that.

The longer I'm in my job, the more important I come to understand what friendship means. And that's what this day is about; and so, once again, I want to thank all involved in this project. I especially want to thank the leaders of both the House and the Senate, the Democrats and the Republicans who are here today. You do honor not to me as an individual but to the office I held. I think this is a marvelous, marvelous bust. And Walker, once again, my thanks and congratulations to you, sir.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:44 p.m. in the Rotunda at the Capitol. In his remarks, he referred to Dan Quayle, Vice President of the United States; Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Wendell H. Ford and Ted Stevens, chairman and ranking Republican member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee; sculptor Walker Hancock; and Representative G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery. Prior to his remarks, the President attended a meeting with Senate Republican leaders in Room S - 230 at the Capitol.