Bush Center Answers Why Freedom Matters


The U.S. Declaration of Independence | Image by Bush Center

The George W. Bush Presidential Center has opened a new temporary exhibit where visitors can behold some of the rarest copies of the documents that made freedom possible.

Titled “Freedom Matters,” the exhibit features items on loan from the collections of Harlan Crow and David Rubenstein.

“The special exhibit encourages visitors to consider the pursuit of freedom throughout history, how the work of extraordinary and ordinary people has impacted freedom for millions of individuals, and what we all can do in our everyday lives to advocate for the blessings of liberty,” the Bush Center explained.

Chris Walsh, the director of freedom and democracy at the George Bush Institute, guided The Dallas Express through the exhibit, highlighting the artifacts that told the story of freedom.

“The important thing is that it emphasizes that freedom is not reserved, as President Bush often says, for a certain group of people from a certain area with certain religious or ethnic background,” Walsh told The Dallas Express.

“It’s a universal longing of the human heart.”

Going into the first room, Walsh explained, “It starts off with the philosophical foundations of freedom.”

“I think a lot of people today are frustrated with democracy; they wonder what is the value of democracy,” he continued. “I think you have to step back and start talking about what are the foundations of freedom.”

The room included a 1689 edition of John Locke’s famous Two Treatises of Government and a 1766 copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Treatises on the Social Compact. Both of these texts were influential in framing the discussion on where individual rights come from and how governments are formed to protect such rights.

“The point is that it’s not a government that gives us our freedom — it comes from somewhere else,” Walsh noted. “Therefore, a government should not be able to take it away.”

One of the highlights of the exhibit was a 1305 copy of the Magna Carta contained within a small booklet used by an English lawyer. The Magna Carta, agreed to in 1215 by King John, represented one of the foundational documents of political liberty, as it codified limitations on the king’s authority over the state.

Magna Carta
Magna Carta | Image by Bush Center

“It is very symbolic of the rule of law, of limiting the king’s power, of giving people different rights,” Walsh said.

“Some of the interesting things here that came out of it was then later influencing the Founding Fathers,” he said. “It’s one of the more symbolic moments in this evolution.”

As visitors step into the next room, they are met with an array of significant documents from America’s march toward expanded liberties. At the center of the room rested an extremely rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed by Peter Force in 1831.

“This establishes a home base for people with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Walsh identified. “The idea that all people are created equal becomes the spirit of the Constitution and Declaration.”

As visitors work their way through the room, they will see a 1787 printing of the Constitution, an early edition of the Federalist Papers, and the records of the congressional debates over the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Wrapping around the Declaration are cases filled with artifacts documenting the trials of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, and the Civil Rights movement.

Another highlight of the exhibit is a pocket-sized copy of the Emancipation Proclamation printed during the Civil War. Walsh explained that Union soldiers would carry these to read them to the slaves in the South, letting them know that they had been liberated.

The exhibit also included various interactive elements designed to engage viewers of all ages.

At the end of the exhibit, visitors can watch a video Walsh helped produce that includes the testimony of people from around the world, including Cuba and North Korea, describing why freedom matters to them.

President George Bush ends the video by saying, “I believe that freedom is a gift from God and in the hope of every human heart.”

“Freedom inspired our founders and preserved our union through civil war and secured the promise of civil rights,” Bush continued.

Freedom matters, according to President Bush, because it “unleashes creativity, rewards innovation, and replaces poverty with prosperity.”

The Freedom Matters exhibit will run until December 31, and tickets vary in cost from $20 to $26.

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15 days ago

We lost many freedoms under bush in the name of protecting US citizens after 9/11. Never should have happened. An example? Airlines are now dictatorships bc of his policies.

15 days ago

Knowing what I know now about the Bushes….can I have all my many votes back? No. As wonderful as these documents are, will this exhibit mitigate to some degree the Truth about the name Bush? I guess the alternative to the Bushes would have been even more disastorous. Conclusion…great to see these documents!

Reply to  DONNA
15 days ago

The documents have nothing to do with the Bushes. They were written at a time when “Freedom” as we know it was non existent. Don’t let your bias, obscure the message the documents represent.

William E Danielson
William E Danielson
15 days ago

Hurray for the War CRIMINAL!

Reply to  William E Danielson
15 days ago

How is Bush a war criminal? In answering my question, please be specific.

13 days ago

I’ve donated enough to W. Bush.
No exhibitions are ever FREE at the Bush Center. Everything is about MONEY.