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.

One staff member who didn't join in the inaugural festivities? Robert Gates. The defense secretary skipped the inauguration because he was designated the "successor during inauguration day" -- the person who will be in charge should a catastrophe kill the president, vice president, speaker of the house, senate president pro tempore and cabinet members who can succeed the president and will be attending the inaugural ceremony.

After the inauguration, Bush spoke to more than 4,000 friends and supporters at Andrews Air Force base in a private event, before flying back to Texas. On the airplane, they were accompanied by friends and some longtime staffers, including former adviser Karl Rove, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Joel Kaplan, deputy chief of staff for policy.

Closing Time

Bush, who has occupied the country's most-prized residence for eight years, spent Monday, his last full day in office, calling world leaders and saying goodbye to his staff. He also granted more pardons, setting free through his executive power two former Texas border patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a drug smuggler.

The final supper at the White House was a family event -- Bush dined with wife Laura, twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, and parents George H.W. and Barbara Bush.

Bush and his wife, Laura, retreated for the weekend to the seclusion of Camp David, a place that the Bushes have used to spend some quiet time and get away from Washington. He also used the weekend to say goodbye to his staff -- with a lunch for the White House crew on Friday and a dinner Sunday organized by former Chief of Staff Andy Card.

Among the international leaders Bush called were President Shimon Peres of Israel, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and President Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea.

"President Bush expressed his gratitude for the kind hospitality all these leaders showed him and Mrs. Bush over the years, and told them how much he enjoyed working with them during his two terms," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Bush's Legacy

Bush's two terms in the White House have been marked by two wars and a recession. An ABC News/Washington Post poll last month showed that 68 percent of Americans disapproved of Bush's job performance overall. But the former Texas governor has tried to frame his presidency as one filled with challenges and accomplishments.

"There have been good days and tough days," Bush said in his 33rd and final prime-time address as president to the nation. "But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country and uplifted by the goodness of our people."

Bush spent much of his past few weeks in office defending his record and his administration's policies.

At his final news conference with White House correspondents Jan. 12, Bush admitted he made some mistakes but said he did what he believed was necessary to strengthen the economy and protect the United States.

"I don't see how I can get back home in Texas and look in the mirror and be proud of what I see if I allowed the loud voices, the loud critics, to prevent me from doing what I thought was necessary to protect this country," he told reporters.

In an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson last month, Bush stressed that he was unprepared for war and that he never compromised his principles.

"I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived," he said.

As the Bushes moved out, a crew of 95 cleared the White House of their belongings and readied it for the Obama family.

Early this morning -- as the crowds flooded into the National Mall to secure spots for Obama's swearing in -- paint rollers and ladders were bustled aroundPerino's former White House office in preparation for incoming Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Contractors were also moving full sheets of drywall into the front entrance of the West Wing.

Looks like Obama won't have to do a paint job himself after all, even though he told a group while volunteering at a Northeast Washington, D.C. neighborhood Monday that "It's [Painting] good practice because I'm moving into a new house tomorrow."

Even though he is now officially retired, Bush -- who will be residing with his wife in a more-than-$2 million home in an affluent Dallas neighborhood does not plan on lounging around any time soon. He has expressed his desire to write a book, and will likely also work on his presidential library to be built at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz and The Associated Press contributed to the report.