The three-day Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library wrapped up Thursday night with one president from Texas honoring another. President George W. Bush spoke and participated in a discussion forum on the closing night of the event, which honors the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act. Bush was the fourth president to speak at the event, after President Obama delivered the keynote address earlier in the day and Presidents Carter and Clinton spoke the previous two nights. Bush began his remarks with humor, complimenting the recent upgrades to the LBJ Library. "Former presidents compare their libraries the way other men compare their, well...," he said as the audience erupted in laughter.
The focus of Bush's speech was much more serious, as he focused on education. Bush specifically called equal access to quality education for everyone an "urgent" civil rights issue of our time. He touted LBJ's achievements and background in education, recalling Johnson's younger days as an elementary school teacher in rural Texas. "Can you imagine the experience of being an 11-year-old who forgot your homework and tried to explain it to Lyndon Johnson," quipped Bush to laughter. Bush went on to list Johnson's legislative achievements in education, including signing the secondary and higher education acts into law, and passing the Head Start program. "In 2007, to recognize his enduring influence, I signed a law naming the Education Building in Washington after President Lyndon Johnson," said Bush.
Bush also called for continued high standards in education and efforts to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. He said education reform is an issue that should unite everyone, regardless of political party or background. But overall, Bush honored the man at the center of the Civil Rights Act. He noted that presidents are judged through the lens of history, and LBJ passes that test 50 years later. "We know with complete certainty that America is a more just and generous country because LBJ set his mind and will to the cause of civil rights," said Bush.