Remarks By Rep. Portman at Dedication Ceremony
Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence
April 26, 1999
Thank you, David, for that kind introduction. I am honored to have been asked to participate in this tribute to our 41st President and I know how the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency feel about it: just this past weekend in my hometown newspaper a CIA official was quoted speculating on what kind of response President Bush would receive today. He said, “It will be like Elvis has returned.” And you know what, President and Mrs. Bush, based on the reception you just received, I think it’s even bigger! All of us who have had the good fortune to work for George Bush share these feelings of pride and enthusiasm.
It was a great personal privilege for me to introduce the legislation to rename this beautiful compound in honor of George Bush. And it didn’t just pass both Houses of Congress. At the end, it was embraced by Congress. In fact, it was one of the very few things we accomplished last year that actually brought people together, just as George Bush has done his entire life.
Even so, as no one knows better than former Congressman George Bush and former Senate Intelligence Committee staff director George Tenet, nothing happens automatically in the US Congress. Even good ideas have to navigate the legislative maze. Luckily, in this case, we had a strong team at the helm. It included House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss; Congressmen Ike Skelton and Lee Hamilton; Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby; ranking members of the Intelligence Committees, Congressman Norm Dicks and Senator Bob Kerrey; Congressmen Jim Moran and Frank Wolf who represent the area, and so many other Members, some of whom are with us today. I would like to ask that every Member of Congress here—all of whom assisted and all of whom support the mission of this Agency, please stand and be recognized for their efforts!
In addition to the bipartisan team on the Hill there were many others who helped make this possible—I think of Sonny Montgomery, Jean Becker, Joe Hagin, Mac McLarty, Seth Webb, Nick Calio—you know who you are and I wish we had time to mention each and every one of you.
I do want to single out CIA Director George Tenet for the vital role he has played in making this a reality. He was in on it from the beginning, Mr. President, even before you were informed. That’s how things are done at the Agency!
Over the last year, reporters have asked me why the naming of the CIA complex after President Bush is appropriate, and why this should be the first Washington, DC-area tribute to George Bush. Well, I think the answer is probably evident in the warmth and enthusiasm of this ceremony. The Bush Center for Intelligence is a particularly fitting tribute because of the very special bond between George Bush, and the CIA and its people.
He was the first Director to go on to become President, the first political figure ever to head the Agency and, what you might not know, I am told he was the first Agency Head to take the employee elevator to his office every morning rather than the Director’s private elevator! Vintage George Bush, and, one small example of why, during his tenure the then beleaguered men and women of the Agency felt they had a friend and supporter at the top and began to hold their heads a little higher.
I think the extraordinary leadership Director George Bush demonstrated during a difficult time in the Agency’s history has been pretty well documented. And many of you know of his high regard for the intelligence gathering capability of the CIA and its importance in conducting foreign policy. This high regard has been demonstrated by the unprecedented regular intelligence briefings he insisted on, first as Vice President, then as President, and now as former President, whose advice continues to be sought on foreign affairs. What is perhaps less well known is the personal importance George Bush attaches to his service here. As many of the Bush friends, family, and fellow staff here today know well, George Bush has reserved a warm place in his heart for this Agency and its people. There are also broader reasons why this tribute is so well deserved: Throughout his remarkable career, George Bush has exemplified the highest values and principles of American public service. I am proud to count myself among the many young people who learned from his example that honor, decency, and integrity are not only consistent with public service but essential to it.
In his wonderful new book The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw summed up the Bush legacy. He wrote, “As a former Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, and then President of the United States, George Bush represents an unequaled record of public service within his generation.” Ladies and gentlemen, it is for all these reasons that the naming of this impressive compound in honor of George Bush is so appropriate. Congratulations, Mr. President.
President and Mrs. Bush, knowing that you won’t be able to comeback for visits as often as you would like, I have as a remembrance for you a signed and framed copy of the legislation establishing the George Bush Center for Intelligence.