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tv   Interview with Barbara Bush  CSPAN  April 18, 2018 6:05am-6:51am EDT

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the office of former george h.w. bush released a statement that said "a relentless proponent of family literacy, barbara bush, passed away on tuesday, april 17, at the age of 92." she is survived by her husband of 73 years, five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and her brother. she was preceded in death by her second child and her siblings martha and james. she will be remembered at a funeral service on saturday in houston, texas. next, a 2013 interview with mrs. bush. >> barbara bush, with all the posts you and your husband have held over the years, was there one that best prepared you for the white house, and when you became first lady, did you feel prepared? mrs. bush: yes, i really did. first, i wasn't elected, so it
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didn't make that much difference. i did notice the difference between being the vice president's wife and the president's wife is huge, because the vice president's wife can say anything. nobody cares. the minute you say one thing as president's wife, you have made news. that was a lesson i had to learn pretty quickly. i felt very prepared because we have lived in washington off and on. my father-in-law had been a u.s. senator, although we lived in texas. i was very comfortable. i had a loving family, and so did george, and i think we felt comfortable, so i love being the wife of the vice president best of all, but -- >> why is that? mrs. bush: you could say anything you wanted, and nobody cared, and you can do a lot of great things.
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when i got to the white house you could do even more good things. the great news is it continued on. and things i am interested in, i can really raise money, raise interest that a normal, much smarter person cannot do. >> going into the white house, what was some of the best advice you got? mrs. bush: let's see. going into the white house, best advice i got? keep your mouth closed i suspect, but nobody dared say that to me. i don't remember getting too much advice. i had been with the senate ladies, and i had a lot of friends. i had done that for eight years, and i went to the senate wives meetings every tuesday morning. i went some tuesdays when they
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didn't have meetings and had to be hauled home again. i love that part of life. i loved all my life. i have been a lucky person. >> you opened your memoir in 1994 by saying, i have been very privileged in my life. mrs. bush: i wrote that because my husband said, you are going to be criticized, because people are going to say you have lived your life of luxury. although i lived in a tiny small house i would be glad to show you in new york and my father and mother struggled sort of because i had a very loving, sick younger brother, but i did live a privileged life. they loved me. they loved my sister, my brothers. we just had a great household, and i hope others could do it. we were privileged.
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maybe not as privileged as some but more than 95% of the country. >> when did you first meet george bush? mrs. bush: i met george at a dance. in those days they exchanged christmas dances, and i met him at a christmas dance, and he cut in on me -- he didn't. he asked someone to introduce us, and i had on a red and green dress my mother's great friend mrs. lufkin had given her and said, i wonder if barbara would like this dress. it had belonged to some friend of hers. it was pretty because george asked to meet me.
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i met him there. he came the next night to another dance. he cut in on me. my older brother asked him if he was playing a basketball game. prep school boys against the rye high school, and they were murdered incidentally by the high school, but george said yes, he would play and ask if i would meet him and go out afterwards. every member of my family came to that basketball game. to look at this boy that i had raved over. when i would come home at night my mother would say, i want you to meet, and my father would say, tell her in the morning. i came home and said, i met this heavenly boy, and my mother knew the next morning exactly who he was, who his family was.
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she should have been the head of the cia. she knew everything. i must say i felt the same way. did as i i can breathe now. i couldn't breathe when i was with him then. he was just as fabulous. >> throughout your life, you moved a lot. mrs. bush: 27 times. he couldn't hold a job, but we are really lucky for the things we have done. we have lived in some horrible places, and we have lived in some wonderful places. i loved almost every one of them, and i like them all because he was there, but everybody knows we lived in a house with three ladies.
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one was a child, and the other two were ladies of the night. we shared the bathroom with them, which seems inconceivable now. i cannot imagine my grandchildren doing that, but they missed some great adventures. george and i had lunch yesterday alone, and we talked about the fact we had a lot of adventures our grandchildren will never have. they really are privileged. they may not know that, but they really are. they won't have these adventures. that is too bad. i never met a texan until i moved here. i thought they were like jane withers. she was the bad girl compared to goodey temple, who was the girl. it turns out i love texas, and we chose to live here. >> did you know early in your marriage you were going to become a co-campaigner for offices?
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mrs. bush: no, i never dreamt, and i don't think george knew. i think sometimes -- was i surprised when he announced he was running for president? it didn't just happen like that. he was the county chairman, and he was a congressman, and he was a very successful businessman. it didn't just happen that he said to me one day i'm going to run for president. it just was there. but long after we were first married. when he came back from china to be the head of the cia, that meant the end of politics. he would never be president because you couldn't be head of the cia and be president. oh, yeah? you can. >> in your memoir you write -- this is from your journal.
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may of 1986 -- george is obviously the most qualified person for the job of president. do i want him to run? absolutely not. mrs. bush: well, it just goes to show you. i told my boys they could never be elected, and look at them. i guess i am a political doubter. i think it is a huge sacrifice to run for office, and i think people are very critical of the congress. they may not be doing a great job, but they could do better at home. onewo -- they would have home. they would be home with their families. many of them can't afford a home in washington. i feel like it is asking a lot, and i thought he might lose. of course, he did, but we moved on. >> how do you develop that thick skin for criticism?
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mrs. bush: i am not good at it. most people don't dare criticize my children in front of me. the press i don't pay attention to. i don't like it, i don't pay attention. don't dare criticize george h w bush ever. 1992 campaign, there was a bumper sticker that said, annoy the media. reelect bush. mrs. bush: i didn't write that, but i might have. i didn't remember that, but i do remember george was running for president on the freeway going from new york to connecticut i saw someone with a sign that said bush for president. i was so excited, and i raced my car up to be close to him. it turned out to be our cousin. [laughter] bush: i was hoping it was a
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stranger, but nobody knew who he was. >> did you enjoy campaigning? mrs. bush: yes, i really like people. it was fun. i liked it a lot. funny things happened, and i enjoyed it. partially because i knew he was the best man. i campaigned for george w knowing full well he wasn't going to win, and he did. >> do think there is room for another bush in the white house? mrs. bush: i think this is a great american country, and if we can find more than two or three families to run for high office, that is silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run. i think the kennedys, the clintons, bushes, there are more
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am nots than that, and i weogant enough to think alone are raising them. but we are raising public servants, whether they are feeding the poor, like laura is, who fed 68 million children around the world, or bringing global health to the world, or working for big brothers big sisters, but there are a lot of ways to serve, and being president is not the only one. i would hope somebody else would run. there is no question jeb is the best qualified to run for president, but i hope he won't. he will get all my enemies, all his brothers', and there are other families. i refuse to accept this great country isn't raising other wonderful people. >> you walk in as first lady.
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is it in the sense of blank slate where you can create your own agenda? mrs. bush: yes. i guess. i'm not sure i know exactly what that means, but people are overly nice to me, and i feel it every single day. my friends have to look for parking places. i don't have to look for parking places. my friends call me and say, would you mind taking me to wherever we are going, because they have to do those things. they have to wait in line at the airport. yes, you can create your own plot or plan, and it's a great privilege, and you ought to take advantage of it, because you can help. >> how do you pick your causes? mrs. bush: because i know that every single problem in america would be better if more people could read, write, and
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comprehend. i just know that. we would be able to compete with the rest of the world. we wouldn't have these children committing crimes because their families don't have jobs. they don't have jobs because they can't read. they can't write. they don't understand. that was such an easy project to pick. i admit it took half a year to pick it because i always volunteered in hospitals, but there is no question in my mind. i think the thinking is coming to that conclusion. we have got to educate our children and their parents. it's not just a whim. it's a necessity if we are going to compete in this world. >> was there ever a day in the white house were you wanted to
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say -- no more, i am done, i quit? mrs. bush: never. no. how could you say that? you have 90 people whose only aim in life is to keep you happy, and your husband is doing good things. he is doing the right thing. he knew when he raised those taxes that he was going to lose the election, although he had been 90% approved. he did the right thing. i am very proud of my family to do the right thing, and george bush, both, have done the right thing. like it or lump it. >> it is 20 minutes since you have been in the presidency. there has been a lot of talk in washington about acrimony between democrats and republicans. is it different than it was 20 years ago? mrs. bush: a little bit, yes. probably more polarized, but george says we have lived at
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times when democrats are very far to the left and it swung back to very far to the right, and then we get to where we should be, which is talking to each other and stability. jeb was right about that. republicans and democrats should be talking about what they are for, not what they are against. and i really believe that. and i believe they will again. >> the white house, can it be a home? mrs. bush: let me put it this way. if you had a home when you went into it, you will have one when you come out of it. we have a loving family. when we went back to the white house, there was all the same fabulous staff. president obama when we went this summer to the luncheon he gave for us, and between the
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luncheon and giving up the ofnts, the 5000 points light, he had the former staff come. it was like family. we were loving seeing all the butlers and ushers and flower people. it was just like family. yes, they are family. we were fortunate enough to have them there for us. the reagans and george's presidency and for george w. >> is there a sorority among former first ladies and first ladies? mrs. bush: sort of. i think some are closer than others. ladybird is gone. pat nixon gone. i was especially close to those ladies, and of course laura was
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no question the greatest first lady. we are friends. i am a great respecter of mrs. obama, michelle obama, what she is doing. obesity is a huge problem in our country, and she is working on it. she is getting criticized for it. governments shouldn't tell you what to eat. somebody has got to tell people what to eat. these children cannot be obese at a young age. it is not healthy. it costs the country. it is a horrible thing. we have got to make ourselves brighter, smarter, educated, and along with that we have got to educate our people on what to eat. she is growing vegetable gardens, so i have respect for that. >> what about your predecessor and your successor?
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mrs. bush: my predecessor, nancy reagan, is a wonderful lady, and she worked very hard on drugs. my successor was a great secretary of state. what did she work on? i guess secretary of state. maybe she worked on my boy, bill. who knows? >> your husband and bill clinton have become good friends. mrs. bush: that's right. my husband, bill clinton, and i have become friends. he visits every summer. we don't agree politically, but we don't talk politics. i think you have to understand. i read someplace, before you are critical of someone, you should remember they did not have the advantages you had as a child, a loving mother and father -- bill's father wasn't around, and
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i think he thinks of george a little bit like the father he didn't have. he is very loving to him, and i really appreciate that. when they went on that long tsunami trip, george said bill insisted he stay in bed and bill insisted he was taken care of. that was really nice. i love bill clinton. maybe not his politics, but i love bill clinton. >> you brought up laura bush. your daughter-in-law. we talked about the speech where she compared you to don corleone. from the godfather. mrs. bush: that's nice. >> you have been referred to as the enforcer of the bush family. what do you think about that?
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mrs. bush: well, i'm not sure sayingilled with laura that. i deserve it, because anything they do is all right, but someone has to be sure the standards are kept. he leads by example. i lead by denying some things, and i am the enforcer. there is no question about it. do i like that role? no. would i rather he had done it? yes, but it didn't work that way. >> 1990, wellesley college. here is the speech you gave. [on video] mrs. bush: wellesley is not just
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a place but an idea. [end video clip] mrs. bush: it was a difficult speech. they objected to my speaking because i had never done anything in my life, and i just had a free ride, and they were right. incidentally it happened that mrs. gorbachev was coming with her husband, and i couldn't leave her, so i invited her to speak with me. i got highly criticized by them saying, she doesn't there come by herself. it was a difficult speech. it turned out there was one student from south america whom we were treated to this great education, and a girl from maine. a day or two before the speech, the girl from maine called and said, i am so embarrassed this has built into a great thing. i was getting calls from president nixon saying, you tell those girls to go to the devil. and whatever. i mean, i had a lot of people for me, but i didn't want to get
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into spitting fight with the girls, but there it was. on the plane going up, she didn't speak any english. we had an interpreter, and i said, do you mind if i work on my speech a little bit. she said, you are giving a speech? i said, you are too. she said, i am? she went into the ladies room, and i said to the interpreter, doesn't she know she is giving a speech? he pulled the speech out of his pocket and said, she knows. i was very proud of the speech. we worked very hard on it. i had given it at four or five other colleges that same spring. the university of pennsylvania, the university of st. louis, a community college. nobody gave a darn, but because of the controversy, the same
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ending, same everything. it made me, no question, because of the controversy people paid attention. margaret thatcher wrote me that it was the greatest speech she had ever heard. george heard it in the white house. i mean, it was that highly -- because of controversy. isn't that too bad? i became a great speaker that day. [video clip] bush: who knows? somewhere out in this audience there may even be somebody who will one day follow in my footsteps and take over as the president's spouse, and i wish him well. [applause] [end video clip]
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>> you brought down the house with your closing line about the political spouse and you wish him luck. mrs. bush: i did. >> what would be your advice for the first husband? mrs. bush: the same thing i would give the first wife. be yourself. i had trouble with that. i would say be yourself. and take advantage of these opportunities. i had lunches for deformed children, arthritis, cancer, nobody paid attention except in the hometown where the doctor came from or the sick child. then you got great publicity. that is where it counts. who cares what -- sorry -- broadcasts say, or something.
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people are what you should care about. >> what should people know about the first lady that we don't know? mrs. bush: i don't know. it seems to me i know everything about the first lady. the first thing a first lady should know is she was not elected president. nor was i. you should know you're not an elected official. but you have an opportunity to do a lot of good things. you should take that opportunity. >> in your book, you write i am not sure the american public likes the spouse to be front and center. mrs. bush: well, i think that is probably true.
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we did not elect her. i am not sure they want her to be front and center. she was not elected. contrary to popular belief. >> what do you remember about your first day in the white house and your last day in the white house? mrs. bush: my first day, walking in from the receiving, you know, viewed the parade. you know, i remember we had huge family. i remember the twins. they are not going to like this. they went with the babysitter down to the bowling alley. they ordered a meal. we were getting ready to go to the balls, and we have the whole family gathered for a large
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sort of buffet meal. i said, where are the twins? the twins are in the bowling alley, they've ordered hamburgers. said, we do not order food away. the enforcer. get them up here. laughing.up, i remember being surrounded and sending everybody off to the balls and how pretty they look and what fun they were having. they were all over the white house, those children. >> what about your last day?
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mrs. bush: last day. our children left town. marvin and his family. they did not want to be around for that. it was very moving. saying goodbye to the white house staff was difficult. we never dreamed we would be back. it was hard, but life goes on. we got on the plane with all of our friends and family and flew back home. the welcome here was unbelievable. we passed a pickup truck on the highway where there were two people standing in the back. they had a sign that said welcome home. that brought tears on my part. they have been great to us ever since. >> you've been in this house 20 years now, in houston. mrs. bush: when we moved in, we lived two doors down. a friend's house. he was going to tear down and build the house next door at the next property. and we moved in there. the neighbors planted to the garden. we came home to garden. it was wonderful. it just was very nice.
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unpacked, the boxes all unpacked. perfect. >> how important was camp david during the white house years? mrs. bush: camp david made such a difference. it is there that the president can really meet with people without a lot of fanfare. a lot of people came up, cabinet members. i remember an education group coming up and talking to george. i just remember that every weekend he had meetings. in the afternoons he would take a nap, or he might watch a movie, and we would go bowling. and they played games with the marines. sort ofll, it's a game like squash. not sure what, but great
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competition. horseshoes.course thatt was there george entertained president gorbachev. many foreign leaders. john major. he had just come in to office, and he and norma came up to camp david. i remember him saying to george, well, i am with you. that was very important. just a lot of times. we were up there when noriega was caught. finally. that made our vacation. we had all of the family for christmas up there and easter. george w. did the same thing. maybe i would throw this in, i remember hearing one of the first ladies said, it is costly
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being the wife of the president. it is not costly at all. you do not pay a telephone bill. you pay for your food. we had guests all of the time. and it would say, so and so, one egg. 18 cents. you could never live as cheaply as you lived at the white house. 90 some people taking care of you. you did pay for your dry cleaning. we had someone who lived with us doing our ironing and washing. she did that there. and we did take care of those things. it was great to entertain at the white house and camp david.
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the best.ort is that area keeps getting blown down by bad weather. but i hope that it will stay with us. >> if you ever wanted to give advice or talk about policy with your husband, how would you do that? that?uld you approach bush: if i wanted to, i would just tell him. but the truth is, i really did not want to. he had great advisors. i never ever called his office to say -- if i had something to say, i said it to george bush. i did not call jim baker or anyone at his office to say this is what i think. i just do not do that. i've never had an office except in the house. here, at the white house, i had an office, but i never went to it. my staff used it.
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but i worked in the white house and i worked in the vice but i just office did not get into his office affairs. and i don't think that anyone will tell you that i did. because i really didn't. if i had something that i wanted to know, i would tell him. i really didn't. think of the advisors he had. he had more good wonderful people. nick brady, bob mosbacher. they were in the cabinet. they knew what they were doing. they were friends of ours for a long time. george trusted them. and so did i. >> in your memoir, you talk about faith, family, and friends. we talked about faith. we talk about family. friends, we about talked about family.
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what about your faith? bush: it is very private. i am a huge believer in a loving god. i pray. george and i pray every night out loud. sometimes we fight over whose turn it is, but we do. i have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort, because we are getting close. i have no fear of death for my precious george or myself because i know that there is a great god, and i am not worried about that. i do not like it for young people, but i know we will see robin again, one way or another. and our families. i have no fear of death. i have a great faith. that sounds so arrogant. >> why? mrs. bush: well, i'm a big shot, i have a faith in god. i do have a faith in god, and i don't question it.
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i am not as good as my children, but from your children, you learn. has a prayershe group that gets on the phone for 30 minutes a night and prays for people all over the country. i have learned a lot from her and from george. and from jeb and marvin too. i have no fear of death, and i think that is comforting. >> you write about marvin, he does not like politics. mrs. bush: at all. but who was george's comfort the time he was in the white house? marvin. who was one of the three people who raised the funds for the
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library. marvin. my oldest boy and the youngest boy are the closest to each other. but yet jeb is the biggest defender of george. george is the biggest defender of jeb. neil is the spark that keeps us all going. leaves,kport, when neal special leaves because he every night has to everybody on the point, i am taking a boat for ice cream, who will come? everybody goes. not george and i. the others go. he is the one who gets the ballgames going. he gets the bonfire going. he goes down and has coffee downtown with people he and marie have met. everybody has got their thing.
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the one thing they have his loyalty to each other. that is hugely important. they know that the one request that i have is that they stay loving siblings. so far so good. i will be looking down, so behave yourself. >> what is your involvement with the george bush library? mrs. bush: not really very much. laura has done tons for the environmental part and for the library. i didn't do much at our library. except the apartment, maybe. i just didn't. it just was not on my plate. my literacy does a lot up there. they have a wonderful literacy component. that part i am interested in.
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as far as building or planning, i have a wonderful rose garden up there that somebody else put in, in my name. thank you for that little gift. -- that wonderful gift. i love the library. i love taking the dogs up there. letting them chase around the pond. i love meeting the people. i enjoy the library a lot. >> speaking of dogs, there are two ways you're in the library with us. mrs. bush: this is bb. george and i used to call each other that. so we have three dogs named that. george says, which one of us are you talking
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to? this one is feisty and jealous of the other. she is my shadow. i cannot move without her. she is known to nip at people. but this one protects george. she is very active. they are huge comfort to me. >> you've always had dogs. these aren't springer spaniels, though. mrs. bush: i know. this is a leash city. if a squirrel goes by, i am flat on my face. these i can hold. i am not sure they are dogs though. they may be people. they're very spoiled. we go to the polo grounds of which we are not a member of the club, but nobody would dare say. i walk them there. [barking] mrs. bush: and they bark occasionally. >> you have written your memoir.
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you kept a journal all of your life. will those papers come the library? mrs. bush: they are all there. they are not to be opened for 50 years, so i can say what i want. i'm getting very forgetful and it really helps to have that memoir to remember things. it makes it easier to write a book, doesn't it? >> barbara bush, when you think about your legacy as first lady, what would you like it to be? and what do you think it will be? mrs. bush: never thought about it. i hope it will be that her children are her legacy and her grandchildren. and now three great grandchildren and a fourth coming. i hope family. certainly, family is crucial. i would like to see the american
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family come back strong. we had a great family. and my dad said to me once, there are three things you can give your children, you can give them the best education. that doesn't mean stanford or yale, or princeton, it means the best education that you can find. and you can help. you're their first teacher. just the best education that you can find, and set a good example. that is very important. and all the love in the world. and i hope we've given it to our children. george w, i heard him say several times, that his dad has given him unconditional love. that is true.
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all of this baloney about george competing with his father is just ridiculous. they are devoted to each other, and there was never competition. my george is putty their hands. i must confess. but, i think they feel loved. i hope, if i have a legacy other than the enforcer, that i created, along with george, a great family. >> barbara bush, thank you. mrs. bush: thank you. that's it. girls. >> the office of george w. bush released a statement, my dear mother has passed on at the age of 92. we are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. barbara bush was a fabulous first lady and a woman unlike any other who brought love and literacy to millions. to us, she was so much more.
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mom kept us on our toes until the end. i am a lucky man barbara bush was my mother. we thank you for your prayers and good wishes. announcer: women's rights. woman: sex,"wonder power, and the quest for debora b. spar and
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others. america in turmoil -- women's rights." ♪ >> this month on c-span, we feature our studentcam contest winners. we asked students to choose a provision of the u.s. constitution and create a video illustrating why it is important to them. to eighthprize goes graders at eastern middle school in silver spring, maryland. it is important, how our country sees people of different genders. >> once we found our


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