WASHINGTON – Former President George W. Bush plans to return to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait later this month, marking a rare visit by the two-term president who has largely shunned the spotlight since leaving office.
The White House and Bush's office said Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will return to the White House on May 31 for the release of their portraits.
Bush has avoided politics since he left office in January 2009. The portrait ceremony will be his first visit to the White House in more than two years.
Bush appeared with President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton at the Rose Garden following the devastating Haiti earthquake in January 2010. The Republican former president accompanied Obama last year to New York's ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said the couple was "looking forward to seeing a lot of their friends from the administration and they are grateful to the President and First Lady for their hospitality."
Obama criticized Bush's economic and foreign policy record during his 2008 campaign and has said that Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney would help restore the policies that preceded the economic collapse at the end of Bush's presidency.
But in their appearances together, they have maintained a presidential protocol. In New York last year, Obama and Bush ran their hands over bronze panels bearing the names of victims listed on the Sept. 11 memorial. Following the earthquake in Haiti, Obama called Bush and Clinton "gentlemen of extraordinary stature" who would marshal financial resources to help the country recover.
The Bushes bought a home in Dallas and have been working on the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which is scheduled to open in 2013.
Bush's portrait unveiling was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.
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