Former President George W. Bush is back at his Crawford Ranch on Tuesday night. But that wasn't his first Texas stop. He touched down only a few hours ago, and only a two-hour drive from Lubbock. NewsChannel 11 was there as Mr. and Mrs. Bush made their first appearance as private citizens.
Just hours after passing the reins of power, the former president and Laura Bush came home to a sea of W's. "It's good to be home," Bush said.
Bush spoke for more than 20 minutes to a crowd scattered with supportive signs. His speech echoed words of success. A Texan, who went to Washington eight years ago, took on tough issues and walked away with his head held high. "Seniors now have a prescription drug benefit and Medicare. We cut taxes for everybody who pays taxes in the United States of America," Bush said. "We removed threatening regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and liberated 50 million people from the clutches of tyranny," he added.
Bush says many of the decisions he made in Washington were guided by values learned in West Texas. "This is a place where people treat each other with decency and respect. Where neighbors look out for neighbors and character counts an awful lot," Bush said.
It's also a place that eight years ago sent their hometown boy to Washington, with a pep rally in Midland's Centennial Plaza. The same place he was welcomed home on Tuesday.
Another roar came after a request by Bush. On his way to Midland International Airport, his plane flew over the crowd, close enough for the former president to see all those gathered for his homecoming.
One of the many on board the former Air Force 1 was Karl Rove. NewsChannel 11 asked, "How was the flight home?" "It was really sweet. The president and his father and his mother and the first lady, they spent a lot of time with their friends on the plane and we reminisced about fun times," Rove said.
Organizers says more than 25,000 people welcomed home the 43rd president and his wife to Centennial Plaza. It was free for all those who attended the homecoming but tickets were needed, tickets that more than 1,100 Lubbock families picked up. "It was so cool when the president came around he kissed me on the check and it was my very first kiss so it was really exciting," Kristen Vander-Plas from Lubbock, says she couldn't wait to welcome the former president home.
But Vander-Plas wasn't the only one. Marine Corps Corporal Josiah Scully also traveled from Lubbock to hear one last word from his former Commander in Chief. "I have a lot of respect for the man and it's tough to see such a good president leave office," Scully.
"There is nothing I will miss more than being the Commander in Chief of such an unbelievable group of men and women," Bush said.
Before Bush left the stage, he thanked everyone for their prayers. He also said how proud he is to have been the 43rd president. "History will be the judge of my decisions. But when I walked out of the Oval Office today (Tuesday) I left with the same values I took to Washington eight years ago," Bush said.
The former president said he plans to write a book and spend his now free time catching up with family.
20,000 Expected to Attend Bush Celebration