Former president Bill Clinton and former president George W. Bush speak during the launch of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program at the Newseum in Washington on Sept. 8, 2014.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images
July 9, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

In a rare moment of public kinship between former Commanders-in-Chief, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will appear together in Dallas Thursday to send off the inaugural class of their joint leadership program.

Since the Presidential Leadership Scholars program began in February, the first class of 60 scholars has traveled to four different presidential centers around the country to hear lectures and use case studies to learn core leadership skills. Both Clinton and Bush’s presidential centers participated in the initiative, as well as those of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Unveiling the program in Washington, D.C. in September 2014, Clinton said he hoped it would inspire the scholars to “have vigorous debate, serious disagreements, knock-down, drag-out fights, and somehow come to ultimately a resolution that enables the country to keep moving forward.”

Daniel Anello, a graduating scholar and the CEO of a charter school initiative in Chicago, echoed this sentiment when he described his experience. “A recurring topic throughout the program has been a need and want for differing perspectives to come together where there is common ground to solve complex issues,” he said. “When we met with former leaders from various administrations, they pointed out how this had occurred at key moments in our nation’s history and paved the way for some key events that shaped who we are as a country, and frankly, made us better.”

According to Bush, the first class of scholars was comprised of “people from all walks of life and different political persuasions… [And] people who have shown the capacity to succeed.”

Casey Gerald, another graduate who founded a program that sends people getting MBAs out to work with small businesses and entrepreneurs, says this diversity is part of what made the program a success. He describes meeting Bush at his presidential center in Dallas: “Here I was, a poor kid from inner city Dallas who by some divine conspiracy made it to Yale and Harvard Business School, having a conversation with a former president who shares not only both of my alma maters but also now resides in my hometown. That night, it didn’t matter that I was black and he was white, that I was broke and he was wealthy, that he was a former president and I was a common citizen, that he was a conservative and I was a progressive…There’s no program on the planet aside from PLS that could make that happen.”

Clinton and Bush will speak in a moderated discussion at the graduation ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Thursday afternoon at 5 pm CDT.

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