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tv   First Ladies Influence Image - Laura Bush  CSPAN  July 10, 2020 8:13am-9:51am EDT

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captioning performed by vitac >> on that note, pablo miguel martinez on facebook references that. mrs. bush invited and then disinvited poets to the white house. has she ever commented on this debacle, as the viewer called it? has she spoken out about what that meant? >> not that i'm aware of. >> i think that she has a
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tendency to say that it is unfortunate that people can't come together and have a civilized discussion. that once again, you might be able to find some common ground if you can get beyond that rhetoric. but i don't think she's smopoke about it directly. >> martha is watching us. hi, martha. you're on. >> caller: hey. thank you so much for taking my call. you know, it's interesting that between laura bush and last week hillary clinton, they're two women of my generation. one has chosen one path. one has chosen another path. both women i admire very much. the one success they have had is that they have both raised strong, successful young women. can you comment on the difference between the two and why? thank you. >> thanks very much.
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>> i guess on the difference between the two and why they have both managed to raise strong women or -- >> that's what she's implying. very different women, yet their children are both strong women. >> i guess i would say, and i guess i believe this myself, i would like to think as a strong woman who i hope has raised strong and successful daughters. i think there should be room in america for all kinds of women to have all kinds of personalities and temperaments and paths. and to devote our attention in whatever ways we want to, whether we set aside our own careers for a time, whether we pick them back up again, whether we stitch our lives together through those decades, make it work within our own families. we each have our own ways we can pursue that, yet we can all reach the same kinds of levels of what we would feel as
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satisfaction and success in raising our children. yes, i think they are very different women. i think they also are very both women, however, as first women and a lot of these first ladies will tell you they saw their time in office as being primarily to be a support to their husband. and i think there are people that rubs the wrong way, feels like it is an anti-feminist position. you should be able to work, you should be able to certainly pursue your own interests. maybe you can disagree with your husband, but i think that particular hot house of being in the white house and the stresses on any couple who is in that job, if you don't have a strong partnership, that president is not going to be as successful as he can be, or to put it another way, would be even less successful than he might have been. and i think certainly george bush has spoken about that directly and every one has spoken about that. i think it's a partnership that
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is an integral one to the health of the american democracy. >> and in november of 2001, shortly after the attacks, laura bush made a bit of first lady history by becoming the first first lady to deliver the president's weekly radio address. which is a custom. many of you probably listen to them today with president obama. here's her reflections on that experience and you'll hear a little bit of that address she gave. >> laura bush, did it surprise you at first when you first became first lady at the platform you were given and the voice you had? >> i didn't -- i knew it. i mean, i knew that, of course. i knew it intellectually because i had seen my mother-in-law and the platform she had to talk about literacy, which was her particular interest. i had seen ladybird johnson and how she had influenced me at home in texas because of her interest in native plants, but i didn't really know it until i made the president's radio
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address. presidential radio address in that fall of 2001, after the terrorist attack, to talk about what, the way women and children were treated by the taliban in afghanistan. >> good morning. i'm laura bush. and i'm delivering this week's radio address to kick off a worldwide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al qaeda terrorist network and the regime it supports in afghanistan. the taliban. that regime is now in retreat across much of the country, and the people of afghanistan, especially women, are rejoicing. afghan women know through hard experience what the rest of the world is discovering. the brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists. not only because our hearts break for the women and children in afghanistan but also because in afghanistan we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us. all of us have an obligation to
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speak out. we may come from different backgrounds and faiths, but parents the world over love their children. we respect our mothers, our sisters, and daughters. fighting brutality against women and children is not the expression of a specific culture. it's the acceptance of our common humanity. >> and that's the first time i really realized that people heard me. and that what i said people listened to. and so then i knew from then on, although i think you don't ever really know it intellectually until maybe after you leave and see what the platform is. >> mark, that experience helped laura bush find her voice as first lady. >> she did find her voice in that issue. she talks about going to austin to visit her daughter at the university of texas. jenna was attending college there at the time, and going to,
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with jenna to a department store. and there were a couple middle eastern women behind the counter who thanked her for making that speech and raising awareness about the brutal treatment of women under the taliban in afghanistan. and she realized at that moment what a profound difference she could make. i mean, i guess in a studio making a radio address, you don'taffects, but it was that moment that told hoar she was making a difference. >> how did she use that voice once she found it. >> she's always been torn because she's one of the few people i have ever encountered in washington who refuses to credit for what she has accomplished. this is a city where people are always taking credit for things they have nothing to do anything with. and for instance, she was instrumental in spurring a program whereby liz claiborne and the singer sewing machine company donated services and goods to women in afghanistan so
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they could become self-sufficient. thinking about our previous caller, one of the things she and hillary clinton certainly share as very different women is this fervent belief that societies can't be successful if they don't take advantage of half their population, and those half of the populations repressed in poverty. she was very interested in doing that, although i can remember pressing her repeatedly to say, how does secretary chow get involved. how did liz claiborne get involved? finally, she mumbled, well, i talked to secretary chow, but i think finding a voice for her, she isn't -- her bully pulpit is results-based, i guess i would say, and she has liked to use it in a way that she thinks will get results. people will raise money. she continues to do that today. she really travels quite a bit, i noticed, and speaks on behalf of a lot of organizations who are raising money for things she believes in, like a couple times a month, from what i can see.
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>> connie is watching us in east lansing, michigan. >> caller: how are you? >> great. what's your question for us? >> caller: hillary clinton and laura bush have either a project or a foundation that they both work on or their staffs both work on. and i'm wondering if you could explain or talk about that a little bit. i'm sorry we don't hear more about it. >> okay. both first ladies have foundations. can you talk about how this works even in the world of campaign giving and finance and how one can be in public life and accept contributions like this and what it does politically. >> well, laura bush continues to work on the issues that were on importance to her as first lady through the bush institute. so the bush center is a conglomeration of a number of interests, including the bush foundation, which is a b benefactor to all things bush, including the bush library and bush institute. so the bushes continue to further the causes that they began to take initiatives toward
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in the white house. >> but they do that with the help of donors. >> with the help of donors, yes. the bush institute raises money that in turn goes into the bush institute and to projects relating to the bush library as well. >> now, the case of laura bush, her husband isn't going to be running for president again, and she certainly isn't going to be running for president herself, so in some ways, while there could be influence that those donors might gain if there were another bush, for instance, to run for president, yes, i think that's possible. but in some ways i guess i think that they're sort of protected at this point from that. however, in the case of mrs. clinton and the clinton global initiative, i think that that remains an area that the public rightfully wants watchfulness on, and i think those of us in journalism continue to try to track because if she were to run again, then those people who
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have paid her money for speeches or have donated to her various causes have a relationship with her that we would want to examine. >> everyone watching this program knows about the many challenges this country faced during the eight years of the bush administration. it was a difficult time for the country, not only the 9/11 attacks but after that, the decision to pursue the wars in iraq and afghanistan. also during that time period, there was hurricane katrina and ultimately the 2008 financial crisis. and on the domestic policy side, the big initiative was no child left behind, the major education administration -- administration's major education initiative. laura bush continued to pursue her own interests even as the country responded to the various bush administration policies. how challenging is it -- we have seen this throughout the series
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about first ladies standing beside their husbands as the public opinion of their work changes. how challenging is that for a spouse to see the increased criticism that the person you're married to is receiving in the public eye? >> i think it's very difficult for them to see the scrutiny exacted at their husbands. you know, i think because they know the man. they know the real person. and very often, we can get caught up in the heat of the moment when we scrutinize our presidents. and they almost become caricatures in a way. so for laura bush, who is so deeply in love with her husband, to see the way he was treated must have hurt deeply. she continued to stand by him. i think she traveled far more in his second term than she did in the first term. and she was -- because again, she had found a voice on so many issues particularly relating to women. and tried to further that cause by hitting the road. and trying to be -- trying to better explain his policies to our nation and to the world.
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>> and 2004, the re-election bid, laura bush was on the road extensively during the campaign here, and the next clip shows you one of the challenges of being a first lady when you're trying to pursue your own agenda and the pesky press corps continues to ask questions. >> i'm very proud of the no child left behind act and proud of the way schools and states all across the country are rallying to meet the goals of that act. it's almost the same goals. we all have the same goals. and that's to make sure every child gets a great education. there's a very large achievement gap between poor school districts, and the students in poor schools and the students in more affluent schools. that's what we need to address. it's not fair in our country to have that much of an achievement gap. >> how has it been in the last
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couple weeks for you watching your husband be criticized so widespread around the world for the behavior of the american military? >> i'm sorry about that, but i do know that those prison photos don't reflect the vast majority of our military men and women. and they certainly don't reflect the values of the people of the united states of america. and i know that. and it's terrible, but the good news in our country is those people will be prosecuted. there will be transparency in what happens, and you know, that's one of the benefits of living in a free country. but i'm sorry about those photographs. i'm sorry about what happened to the iraqi prisoners, because it doesn't reflect our country. >> what are you seeing there? >> well, i was really thinking about when where watched that, i think one of the things we never really talk much about with first ladies is their qualities
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of leadership. we talk about leadership in terms of chief executives, people who we elected to put in charge. think of leadership as also being really specific and targeted and focused about how much time you have and what you can accomplish with that time you have. and so, in the case of laura bush, particularly in that second term, when she realizes that it's her last chance to have an impact, there are many, many things she may be concerned about that she may discuss privately with her husband, she's certainly not going to relate to the rest of us. she may have issues she disagrees with him on, but the idea of trying to remain focused on the areas where she would like to have impact and knowing that she can fritter her time away if she doesn't remain what we would call on message, which also can be highly specific and focused is something we see her do there. and i think that, you know, with
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ten years passed, i would leave it to viewers to decide if they think they see sincerity there or not, whether she does in fact say i'm very sorry about that or whether she seems as if she's just trying to take a pass on it. what we do know now is that we have had other horrible incidents with our military, but for the most part, for all of the people who are in service, it is in fact an anomaly. and you heard her address that there. >> she was speaking at a school about education initiatives, no child left behind was a major one of the bush administration. they want to know what was laura's role in no child left behind? as a teacher, did she support the direction that the president's reform policies were taking? >> she saernl did publicly. i think she was making a speech about education there. and supporting his policy. they talked about, president bush campaigned talking about the low expectations and they
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wanted to narrow that achievement gap. i think what she said at night behind closed doors, we don't know, as she said to a reporter once, if i had differences with my husband, i wouldn't be telling you. so we don't know what she felt. she certainly, again, as we could see there, supported his policy. by speaking about it publicly. >> on the international front, she traveled extensively, as you mentioned, and she ultimately visited nearly 75 countries during her years in the white house. in addition to afghanistan, she became very much involved in the president's african aids relief effort. and malaria eradication efforts. and also met with burmese refugees and exiles at the white house. when she chose to be involved internationally, what drove those decisions? >> i think what drove a lot of those decisions was, again, the issue of women's rights and their full participation in the
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societies in which they were, and an extension of that was women she felt wanted to know that they could raise their children to have lives that were sustaining and successful as best they could. and the human rights flowed out of that. i think that the teachings of the dalai lama have been of interest to her in a way philosophically there have been a couple members of the family who are engaged in that. the president has a cousin who has been very engaged in that, and through those conversations, she once again saw a female leader in a country who had been repressed and under arrest for many years, sort of moved her to that. what do you think about that? >> when you talk to george w. bush about this, why he got involved in aids relief in
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africa, where no other president had really given much thought to africa, remarkably, george w. bush did by far more for the continent of africa than any of his predecessors. the reason is, to whom much is given much is required. he saw that aids was eradicating much of subsaharan africa. and he could do something about it. he could make a measurable difference. he thought if he didn't do that, if he didn't take a chance and invest money in that cause, in the eradication of that insidious disease, we would be judged in years to come. i think a lot of it had to do with his religious faith, and again, i think laura bush shares that faith. >> next is cathy in illinois. hi, kathdcathy. >> caller: hello, the reason i'm calling is earlier in the program, the question was raised about when laura found her face once more. i read her book, and she mentioned, i lost my faith that
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november. lost it for many, many years. if i recall correctly, when she was on the book tour program for people interviewing her about her book she had written, she was asked when did you find your faith? and she said that it came back to her gradually, and she mentioned like when her twin daughters were born, that that, you know, she said good things started happening, and i found my faith gradually, and i found it interesting on that subject in her book, she also mentioned she said the one thing -- the one wrenching fact is i had faith that one is never alone. and i think that probably sums up how she felt about her faith. >> thank you very much for calling and adding to our discussion. turning to her book, also on another issue, and that is social policy issues like abortion and earlier a caller mentioned gay rights. here's what she brieks in spoken from the heart.
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on the issue of abortions, i have been struck by the deep divide between the sides and how rarely the alternative of adoption is raised. we have so many friends and family members who found their children through adoption. george and i were fully expecting to be one of those. today, for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, infertility is the issue most personal to them and private strugt that breaks their hearts. we're a nation of different generations and beliefs seeing issues through different eras and eyes. while cherishing life, i always believed abortion is a private decision and there no one can walk in anyone else's shoes. something she and george w. differ on, one would say. >> i think she said publicly when she was first lady she was not in favor of overturning roe v. wade. she was asked whether they had invited -- whether gay people had slept at the white house while she was first lady, and she said probably. and the interviewer asked, would you object if that were the case? she said certainly not. i think she let her views be
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known in subtle ways, i think. interestingly enough, you mentioned that she and president bush had trouble conceiving. in fact, they had went to an adoption organization to see if they could adopt twins. then they ended up conceiving their own set of twins. quite unexpectedly, i believe. >> we have been talking a lot in this program about the amount of work laura bush did, all the time she spent on the road, and certainly throughout the 20th century first ladies, that has been a story told again and again. in the interview we did with laura bush, we asked her about whether or not first ladies should earn a salary for all this work. here's her answer. >> mrs. bush, should the first lady receive a salary? >> i don't think so. there are plenty of perks, believe me. a chef, that was really great. i miss the chef. you know, i don't think so. no, i don't think so. and i think the interesting
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question really is not should they receive a salary but should they be able to work for a salary at their job that they might have already had. and i think that's what we'll have to come to terms with. i mean, certainly, a first gentleman might continue to work at whatever he did if he was a lawyer or whatever, and i think that's really the question we should ask, is should she have a career during those years that her husband is president in addition to serving as first lady. >> certainly at the state level, some first spouses have been able to pursue their own careers, but could this work on a national level? what about conflict of interest in whatever job a spouse would hold? is it possible for someone in this day and age to migrate from having a life fully outside the white house as well as being first spouse? >> well, i think we would have to give it a try and see how we think it works out. you know, i think that certainly
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the ceremonial aspects of the job are the ones you might be able to find some flexibility in. i mean, we have had other presidents who were not married and had hostesses who carried that on for them. so certainly, some of those really old fashioned ways of being the gracious spouse in the white house we could change. as i said, i think that it's a relational job. it's not a political job in many ways being first lady. it's a job about tending to the primary principal in its highest form as staff members do. i'm not suggesting that a first lady is a staff member, but i'm saying that, you know, she once said to me, being the wife of george bush is her most important job, whether her husband is president or not. and by that, i took her to mean
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that that is her primary relational core of life. and she has other pursuits and she certainly has hobbies. many of which she doesn't share, that she takes on on her own. but i think anyone would be hard pressed to continue. but there's always a first time for everything. >> i don't think there are many first ladies who wouldn't say the most important role they played was as a sort of pillar of strength to their husbands in times of need. being there for them. >> i would hope that when we have a female president, which i'm sure we will, if she has a spouse, that spouse will feel the same way about supporting her. >> speaking of support, we referred to this earlier, but we have a chart which we will show the audience about the president's popularityeral rati in his eight years in office. peaked enormously after the 9/11 attacks and continued downward through the years of his presidency. laura bush, however, remained
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popular with the american public, and in a 2006 gallup poll, she was at a much, much higher rate than the president. 82% approval rating in january of 2006. what does this say about the american public and their ability to see separately the roles of the people in the white house? >> well, i think that the american people are pretty wise. and in many ways, and they certainly know that she hasn't been elected to that position. that she somewhat is there by virtue of her relationship to the president. she carries on. she does what she can do. she can't be held responsible entirely for the political decisions she makes. i suppose that probably sounds naive to a lot of people, but i was always struck when i was covering her, people say, she
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seems so like this or seems so like that. you know, she really likes bob marley, so what does she think when she talks to him, because he's a warmongering man? i would always say, that's the wrong question. you are speaking as a voter and a citizen, and you have concerns about what you have elected this president to do, and you feel he's not fulfilling that, but she is his wife. she too is a constituent, but that is not her primary role she looks at it, and i do think people discern that. >> dennis is watching us in brooklyn. you're on. >> caller: how are you? thank you for the series. it's great. my question for the panel is, was mrs. bush less political and more compassionate than sympathetic than most other recent first ladies? i remembered her being so aware of the victims of september 11th saying that she would daily read "the new york times" profiles of the dead that were published at the time. and recall her many visits to
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the walter reed hospital to visit veterans. was this rooted in her being a war-time first lady or consistent with her personality and demeanor in general? >> i think the answer is both. there aren't many first ladies who are overtly political. really. i think she played a more traditional role as first lady than, say, hillary clinton or eleanor roosevelt. but frankly, i don't -- i think two things that the gentleman mention eed were very much consistent with her personality. reading obituaries of the dead, comforting people in need. that's very much a part of her personality. >> i'm going to interrupt. our time is getting short. you referenced this earlier, her trip to the white house correspondents dinner. just as nancy reagan had done two decades earlier, she went to the press corps to have people see her in a different light
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than perhaps they did covering her regularly. let's watch, and those of you who saw it originally will remember this time when she spoke surprisingly. >> the city slicker asked the old guy how to get to the nearest town -- >> not that old joke. not again. [ applause ] >> george always says he's delighted to come to these press dinners. baloney. he's usually in bed by now. i'm not kidding. i said to him the other day, george, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later.
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i am married to the president of the united states. and here's our typical evening. 9:00, mr. excitement here is sound asleep. and i'm watching "desperate housewives." with lynne cheney. ladies and gentlemen, i am a desperate housewife. >> laura bush at the 2005 white house correspondents dinner. you can see an event that was well received. one of the things we talked about with each of the first ladies' profiles is their stewardship of the white house. during her time in the white house, laura bush did a restoration of the lincoln bedroom.
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we're going to watch as she talks about that next. >> we have refurbished the lincoln bedroom. i would say that's the biggest renovation project that we have worked on. the lincoln bedroom was last done by truman when he set it up to be the lincoln bedroom, to have the lincoln furniture in it. when lincoln lived here, the room was his office. when truman redid the house in the late '40s and early '50s, he set up that room, the room we now call the lincoln bedroom, to commemorate the fact it was lincoln's office, and it was the room that he signed the emancipation proclamation in. so the room itself is really a shrine, i think, to american history. truman redid the room then, in that renovation, and it had never been refurbished since. and really needed it. the carpet was over 50 years old, and so i worked with the white house historical association, the preservation
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board, who are furniture curators, art historians, wallpaper specialists. the real scholars. and the white house curator, of course, and we looked back at the wallpaper lincoln had in his office, at the carpet he had in his office, and we did reproductions of those. and then we had old photographs of the way mary todd lincoln had draped the lincoln bed with the purple and gold and fringe and lace. really high victorian decorating. and we did have later photographs not contemporary with lincoln, but the bed still dressed the way she had dressed it, so we did that again. >> how did the bushes use the white house as a social instrument during their years? how did they use it to advance policy? what was entertaining like while we had wars going on? >> well, i think that they had only really begun to entertain the dinner for the mexican president was a few days before
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september 11th, and it kind of backfired literally because they had fireworks, and they hadn't really warned anybody it was happening so they sort of exploded all over town, and everybody was sort of alarmed. then after september 11th, there was a great deal of thought as to what was appropriate and how to do it. i think certainly laura bush has been instrumental in seeing the white house as a living historical institution, and using it as a way to help people understand what the lives have been like for people who lived there at the time. and the way that reflects the period and the way that reflects the context of the time. i mean, the meticulous need to re-create what mary lincoln has done is really about showing the tenor of the times and what was considered the right way to be. i think mostly for themselves, they would bring friends in and do that, but they favored smaller gatherings, certainly. and not much, as she was right, he went to bed at 9:00 at night. she was the one who might stay
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up late reading or prefer a little dancing. >> let me take a call from david in utah. hi, david. >> caller: hi. i was calling to ask about laura bush's influence on the politics or the democratic rights in burma. i know she was really championing that towards the end of the second bush administration. >> thanks so much. either of you know? >> well, again, i found it really kind of curious and i wish i knew more about that. i haven't really been able to understand exactly what moved her to do that. she really became quite outspoken in a way, i would argue, that is her most forceful and surprising role as a first lady, to wade into foreign policy in an area where the united states had been kind of not all that engaged in speaking out against the generals and all of that. so she's been persistent, and i think that continues to this day along with her interest in
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women's rights in afghanistan. she just recently appeared with secretary kerry and former secretary clinton. the three of them at the state department to make this plea as we pull out of afghanistan, we don't leave women behind. the issue about burma is a fascinating one and i don't know much about where that's come from. >> in that clip, laura bush mentioned the white house historical association. as the series winds down, i wants to remind you who have been watching along the way, the white house historical association has been our partners throughout the series helping us extensively with research and photographs along the way. we also partnered with them in this biography book, the special edition of the first ladies of the united states, and many thousands of you have had a copy of that so you can learn more about the lives of the first ladies. i'm cognizant of our time here, so as we leave her white house years i want to put on the record some of laura bush's accomplishments in office. as we mentioned, as the first first lady to deliver the president's weekly radio address, the founder of the
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national book festival, which continues to this day. visited more than 75 countries during her eight years in the white house, and renovated the lincoln bedroom, among those that we are highlighting. in 2009, she became a private citizen again. and how has she approached that aspect of her life? >> i think the bushes went very comfortably back into their private lives. i don't think that they missed the grandeur of the white house. i think they eased very gracefully into private life. and they have gone back to their lives in dallas. mrs. bush continues to be very much involved with the bush center, which i referenced earlier, that includes the bush institute and the bush library. she was instrumental in the planning of the bush library, and i think her touch can particularly be seen on the grounds surrounding it, with its native grasses and native plants, something she has a graut passion for. i think she continues to lead a very full life. and as i mentioned earlier,
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susan, continues to pursue some of the causes that were dear to her as first lady through the bush institute. >> one of the nice things about being first lady in a way, too, is that you think you have just a brief period of time, but your impact does continue. and she actually has more room to continue to be involved in these policy initiatives than certainly the former president does or would or has suggested he wants to, because he doesn't think it's right for a president to be criticizing another one, but she and mrs. obama, for instance, have both been together in africa, have had a summit for first ladies of africa. they worked together on a number of things. mrs. clinton and she and the secretary have carried on those things. she, i think, has been surprisingly and happily engaged in a way she thought she might not be. >> we have in fact a clip of her trip to africa with the current first lady, michelle obama. let's watch that next. >> that's why we're launching the first ladies initiative at the bush institute.
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we want to support first ladies around the world by convening them annually to highlight the significant role that they can play in addressing pressing issues in their countries. >> constantly get asked, especially in the first term, are you more like laura bush or are you more like hillary clinton? and i'm like, is that it? those are the two choices? >> reporters said, are you hillary clinton or barbara bush? and i always just said, i think i'll be laura bush. i do laura bush pretty well, having grown up as her in midland, texas. >> mark, you had the opportunity to host some of these panel sessions with first ladies talking about the role. and what you hear is the desire on the part of the public and the press to type cast, and also the desire of the women in the role to be their own self, despite all the enormous pressure to be something other than that. would you comment on that? >> that's right. they're always going to be compared to their predecessors. are you going to be a more
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traditional first lady, an activist first lady, which one will you be? i think they all put their unique stamp on the role. laura bush was no exception. >> we have read a couple times from laura bush's memoir, which is spoken from the heart. you talked along the way about what a guarded individual she was. when you read her memoir, did we learn any more about her than you had known perhaps from all your reporting and your biography? >> i was interested in hearing from her in her own words. what she wants to reveal about who she is. and what she reveals about what's important. i think one of the keys to understanding laura bush is she's a reader. and that is a really integral part, and you know, the gentleman david, i think, who called in from provo and wanted to know whether she was more empathetic. i think she finds power in narrative and in story and in human story. and that's what she responds to. that's what touches her.
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that's what compels her to act in many ways. i gathered from her a deeper understanding from that book of the meaning of the west texas land, the sound of the wind, the great giants of texas literature who have come before her, and i think that's a key to understanding who she is. she's not a crusader as much as she is a reader. that's what informs the way she moves through life in many ways. >> in a way that transported her from west texas. she talked about the incongruity of being in west texas and reading plato and these classic writers and leaving midland through those pages, those narratives. i think her book is exceptionally well written. and what i was far more interested in the first part of it, the story of her growing up in midland, which she writes so
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poet iically about, than as fir lady. it's very difficult to write compellingly about one's tenure as first lady because, again, it is so ceremonial in nature. >> debbie is watching us in louisville. you're on. >> caller: hi, susan. i want to thank you very much for this program. my question is, we have many influential first ladies who go back through history. they could be hillary clinton, michelle obama, or laura bush. what is the most important thing that you believe laura bush has done for the american -- for women's rights, and susan, of all the first ladies, which ones bring more -- had impressed you the most. >> thanks. i'm going to pass on that answer since i have been in this chair in the role of interviewing along the way, but did she make any advances for women's rights, our caller wants to know. >> i think that she -- with all of these first ladies, it's really hard to judge them in almost the contemporary times in
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which we are in now. i would defer to my historian colleague here. i write about the now in many ways. i think that it's too soon for us to know exactly what kind of impact laura bush has had. in terms of women's rights. i think that she has been a representative in her own way for rights, in a way that is not as expected as someone who has crusaded. i guess what i'm trying to say is what some people see as her traditional mean, to speak from that position out on behalf of women who do not have opportunities, in some ways makes her more effective because it's not quite as expected. it's almost as if she's championing it in a place that we wouldn't expect to hear it, perhaps. >> i think both the bushes take the long view of history. and laura bush talks about the fact she admired her husband for
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taking the long view of history and making difficult decisions during the course of his presidency that wouldn't necessarily manifest themselves in popularity ratings. and i think you're right. i think his presidency and how it's reflected is very much in the balance. we'll see what happens. he knows that. and i think most historians know that. i think her contributions as first lady will be revealed as we begin to see the forest through the trees in the tenures of both of them in the white house. >> we have just a couple minutes left. people have asked along the way, and i have been negligent in asking it on their behalf, since she is historically the only first lady to have had a mother-in-law who served in the role, people are curious about the relationship between the two women. what can you tell them? >> well, i think that they have a good relationship. and a strong relationship, as best as i can tell. i wouldn't presume to say you
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know it's exactly in a marriage or that you know exactly what's between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. she famously stepped, too, with barbara bush, who has a large personality, when she first came to kennebunkport and barbara bush was said to say somewhat tartly and you, dear, what do you do? when they were all boys running around competing against each other. and she said, i read, i smoke, and i admire. that was her way of saying this is who i am, what i'm going to be doing, and i may not fit some mold. i think she respects very much her mother-in-law's life. and i think that barbara bush, for her part, has been very grateful, said she was at the beginning for settling down her boy. and is steady and once said, she's the one with real first lady potential. >> i think that's right. i think there's great mutual admiration between the two. they're very different women, but i think that's right.
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i think barbara bush saw in laura bush the qualities of a great political partner, a great spouse for her husband as he embarked on a political career. >> the two daughters, jenna is an nbc correspondent. she married, not in the white house, even though her parents were still in office in 2008. and they gave george and laura bush their first grandchild. barbara is the ceo of an organization called global health corps, and as we close here, i want to say thank you to our two guests for helping us understand about the life and times and still unfolding legacy of laura bush. thanks to both of you for being here and taking our callers' questions throughout the evening. we're going to close with some thoughts about the members of the bush family, the president himself, and the two daughters on their mother, first lady laura bush. thanks for being with us. >> i don't want to steal barbara's. i feel like i always steal her answers. do you want to go first?
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>> you love to go first. >> okay. >> you go first the next time. >> you can go first the next time. >> thank you. >> i would say probably her work for women. and all over, really. and we were so lucky because our parents took us on travels to africa, so we got to see pepfar being unrolled and being in clinics and schools and meeting people whose lives would be forever changed. i would say her work for women, and my dad, too. i'm very proud of him for that. >> i think definitely echo that and also this was brought up before by anita, but i think after 9/11, mom played such a -- i'm going to cry. >> it's okay. all bushes cry. >> i know. in front of people. in front of a lot of people. i think the work that she did after 9/11 and just how comforting she was to everyone in the country is an incredible legacy and was really critical to the country healing after
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9/11. [ applause ] >> if i were doing a series on first ladies, i would be probing this question. could the first lady handle the pressure? because if the answer is no, then the life of the president is going to be pretty miserable. laura was unbelievably calming, and she was, you know, a pillar of strength in the midst of all the noise, and you know, finger pointing and yelling and all the stuff that goes on in washington. and she's a great first lady, really great first lady.
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tonight, on american history tv, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at the life of michelle obama. c-span in cooperation with the white house historical association produced a series on the first ladies, examining their private lives and the public roles they play.
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first ladies, influence and image, features individual biographies of the women who served in the role of first lady over 44 administrations. watch american history tv tonight and over the weekend on c-span3. if you enjoyed watching first ladies, pick up a copy of the book, first ladies, influence and image. featuring profiles of the nation's first ladies. through interviews with top historians. now available in paperback, hardcover, or as an ebook. >> american history tv on c-span3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up this weekend, saturday, at 2:00 p.m. eastern, on oral histories, an interview with civil rights activist courtland cox, covering his time attending howard university, his involvement in the student
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nonviolent coordinating committee, and serving as the secretary-general of the 1974 sixth panafrican congress. on sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on reel america, the 1963 nbc news report, the american revolution of '63, a program on the status of the civil rights movement, with protests from albany, georgia, birmingham, alabama, cambridge, maryland, and in the northern cities of inglewood, new jersey, chicago, and brooklyn. at 7:00 p.m., a discussion on congress, political parties, and polarization, with historians edward ayers and joann freeman as well as norman ornstein. and as 8:00 p.m. on the presidency, author andrew cohen talked about his book, two days in june, john f. kennedy and the 48 hours that made history, about two days, june 10th and 11th, 1963, that defined jfk's response to the nuclear arms race and civil rights. exploring the american story,
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watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. up next on american history tv on c-span3, an interview >> laura bush, what was your initial reaction the first time your husband said i think i'm going to run for president? >> well, i can't really remember initially what my act reaction was. i think it was a bit slower than all of a sudden saying i'm going to run for president. he was governor and had been governor for one term and re-elected and i slowly think we both started talking about it. he talked about it and of course other people were talking to him about it. i knew what it was like. i knew already what it would be like to run for president. i knew what


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