In a very brief statement President Bush said, “Whether we're Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual. And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country.” It was one of the rare occasions that bring together the men who have served in the most powerful elected position in the nation.
In the past such gatherings have been reserved for special delegations to international events on behalf of the incumbent President or attendance at the funeral of a former President or high-ranking public official. The appearance of the five men is a powerful symbol of the orderly transition of government that is the hallmark of the nation’s democratic system.
Before the group convened for lunch
President-elect Obama stated, “This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I'm very grateful to all of them.”
It was an historic photo op that many in this nation doubted they would ever see; a Black American stood in the Oval Office of the White House as its future occupant. It is the first time former Presidents gathered at the White House since October 1981 — 27 years ago.