(NBC News) -- In what President Barack Obama called "a special day for our democracy," the nation's former living presidents gathered with the current commander in chief to honor one of their own at Thursday's dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.
Obama joined with George H.W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter in toasting the 43rd president.
The ex-presidents' remarks shied away from the bitter controversies of Bush's presidency such as the invasion of Iraq.
Carter, the first former president to speak, praised Bush for appointing a special envoy to help end a prolonged war between north and south Sudan.
Clinton called Bush "disarmingly direct," lauded him for helping Haiti, and joked that Bush had beaten him in first becoming a grandfather.
The dedication of the Bush library has spurred a wave of retrospective analyses of his presidency, reviving the debates over his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and his decision, with a congressional vote of authorization, to invade Iraq in 2003.