(Forbes) - Surrounded by his family, former associates, and thousands of well-wishers, the 41st President of the United States celebrated the official re-opening of his presidential museum on the campus of Texas A& M University with a surprise parachute jump -- his fifth since he was shot down in World War II and the sixth of his life.
President Bush's skydive with the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team headlined a 10th anniversary ceremony for the Bush Presidential Museum, which reopened following a six-month, $8.3 million renovation. The grand reopening program also featured performances by the Texas A& M Fighting Aggie Band, the Singing Cadets, and a flyover by the United States Navy.
"I hope our new library and museum helps us tell an important story about an America who rose to defeat the forces of fascism, stare down the forces of imperial communism, and spark a new revolution of freedom and free markets that today is still sweeping out world," said President Bush. "There's only one name on the building outside, but let there be no doubt: the story we tell inside has countless authors. Every man and woman who has worn the uniform of our nation; our steadfast and distinguished allies -- all of them, and so many more, helped our nation give birth to a new era of hope and opportunity."
The grand reopening ceremony took place 10 years and four days after the Museum was first dedicated on November 6, 1997 with Presidents Clinton, Carter, and Ford in attendance. While the Texas limestone exterior remains unchanged a decade later, little on the inside of the 21,000-square foot building escaped refinement, updating, or complete overhaul.
New permanent exhibits include a replica of the White House situation room with interactive screens engaging guests on the decisions leading to the first Gulf War, the White House Press Briefing Room, and the only Oval Office exhibit that allows visitors to sit in the "seat of power" and have their photo taken behind the President's desk. While many of the most popular exhibits will remain -- such as a TBM Avenger like the one Ensign Bush flew during World War II and the section of the Berlin Wall -- the new Bush museum will also include never-before-seen photographs and artifacts of President Bush and Mrs. Bush, as well as the entire Bush family.
President Bush, 83, jumped today with Sergeant Michael Elliott of the U.S. Army Gold Knights. The former president's previous "voluntary" jumps occurred in 1997 in Yuma, Arizona; in 1999 to celebrate his 75th birthday at Texas A& M; and twice more at Texas A& M in 2004 to mark his 80th birthday.