Bush Transitions From President to Retired

In a spectacular gathering of hundreds of thousands of people, George W. Bush handed over his title of president of the United States to Barack Obama and officially went into retirement.

After eight years in Washington, Bush returned to his home state of Texas, where he began his political career as a governor. Arriving in Midland, Texas, the 43rd president was greeted by thousands of well-wishers.

Nearly 30,000 gathered in Midland's town square to welcome the Bushes home, and some on hand waved cardboard red, white and blue "W" signs. Excerpts of some of Bush's speeches played on a large TV screen, including remarks he made to Congress shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. One boy waved a sign that read, "President Bush, thank you for keeping me safe."

"The presidency was a joyous experience," Bush said. "It's good to be home."

Reminiscing about his memories in Midland -- the city where he met his wife, Laura -- Bush joked and spoke at ease about his future plans. He also thanked the people, his family, and his staff, especially singling out former secretary of Education Margaret Spelling, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney, who he dubbed a "great vice president."

Speaking about his presidency, Bush outlined his achievements and said he never looked at public polling -- which went against him in recent years -- to make his decisions.

"I was also optimistic about the future and I had great faith in the American people, and faith is one of the fundamental truths," Bush said. "When I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I'm not going to regret what I see, except maybe some gray hair."

And with his signature shrug of the shoulders, Bush left the podium with a wide smile.

Bush will return to his ranch in Crawford for the night, and said he plans to relax tomorrow and make his wife, Laura, a cup of coffee.

The former president had a busy last day in the White House. But before the inaugural festivities began, Bush spent some quiet time at the house that has served as his residence for the last eight years and took one last walk this morning around the south lawn before going up to the residence, where he bid farewell to his friends and remaining staff members.

Asked if Bush was emotional, former press secretary Dana Perino said, "We are all emotional," adding that "He was very upbeat."

Before the swearing in, the Bush family joined the Obamas, Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne and former presidents, including Bill Clinton, for the morning service at St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, after which they welcomed the incoming first family, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, to the White House for coffee, following the traditional meeting of presidents. The two presidents posed for a quick photo before and after their meeting.

Upon arriving at the White House, Michelle Obama presented Laura Bush with a gift -- a pen engraved with today's date and a journal for her memoirs, Obama aides said.

Bush is expected to hold a public event in Midland, Texas, tonight, followed by a private event at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas.

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