WACO, Texas: After an enthusiastic welcome from thousands of cheering Texans in two cities, George W. Bush spent his first night out of office at his Crawford ranch.
Before flying in a helicopter to his 648-hectare ranch, the former president told about 3,000 well-wishers gathered at a Waco airfield on Tuesday night that he was glad to be back in Texas.
"It is a great day because we got to come home once and for all," Bush, with former first lady Laura Bush at his side, said as the crowd cheered.
The supporters, bundled up against cold temperatures, had waited on the tarmac for more than an hour. Many waved red, white and blue cardboard "W"s and small American flags. Dozens of children sat on their parents' shoulders to get a glimpse of Bush, who shook some hands and chatted with some in the crowd after he spoke.
After leaving Washington, DC, earlier on Tuesday, Bush arrived in Midland, where he grew up and where thousands held a send-off rally before his first inauguration.
In the hours leading up to his return on Tuesday, excerpts of some of Bush's speeches played on a large TV screen, including remarks he made to Congress shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
One little boy waved a sign that read, "President Bush, thank you for keeping me safe" in multicolored lettering. Others read: "Be Bold, Be Bush" and "43 is back."
"The presidency was a joyous experience, but as great as it was, nothing compares with Texas at sunset," Bush told a crowd of about 25,000. "Tonight I have the privilege of saying six words that I have been waiting to say for a while: It is good to be home."
Entertainers (left to right) Adam Levine, Faith Hill, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, will.i.am, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Sting and Mariah Carey perform at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in Washington on Tuesday. Reuters
(China Daily 01/22/2009 page12)