tv National Archives Foundation Honors Laura Bush CSPAN November 23, 2018 4:45pm-5:17pm EST
>> the national archives presented former first lady its award.with she said some of the conversation with cokie roberts. this is 30 minutes. >> we give this award each year. we try to make the award something special and significant to the honoree. we understand that laura ingalls wilder is one of our honoring's favorite authors. laura bush wrote, "in the hot, arid lands of west texas, i tried to imagine being surrounded by tall pine trees and heavy snow. of course, i identified with the main character, a girl named laura." the 2018 records of achievement award features a handwritten insert by laura ingalls wilder to a typescript draft of her fifth "little house" novel. this insert was added to an early draft attempting to explain how mary, laura's older
sister, had become blind in the intervening time period. the books i have not read. [laughter] but a lot of people have. this insert is part of the collection of the papers at the herbert hoover presidential library. so, what you have been waiting for now, journalist and historian in her own right, cokie roberts will have a conversation with laura bush about her contributions to our society. we thank you again for being with us. cokie: thank you, governor. thank you very much. [applause] cokie: i did love the laura ingalls wilder books, so this is
a really wonderful gift. thank you very much, i'm thrilled with it. thanks a lot. cokie: two more introductions before we start. many of your former staff members are here. would you all please stand? here they are. [applause] mrs. bush: thank you, that's great. cokie: of course, you know how important they are to the work you have done. and the man you convinced to start the national book festival. mrs. bush: he was my partner. thank you so much. [applause] mrs. bush: he knew i started the texas book festival, and he called me right after we moved to the white house and said, let's have a national book festival. i want to thank him very much. cokie: so, we all want to know, how was the wedding?
mrs. bush: how was the wedding? [laughter] cokie: and as a reporter, keeping it secret, not good. how did you manage that? mrs. bush: i think barbara kept it secret. few people were invited. it was just us, our family and craig's family. it did not include jeb or neil or the other uncles. [laughter] mrs. bush: it was just our family. she wanted to get married there because that is where her grandfather is, and she wanted to be with him. and so we had a wedding outside looking at the ocean, and then we went in and had dinner at the dining room table. there were 20 of us at the dining room table. it was just perfect. it was barbara and craig, her new husband, his family, and our family. and the little flower girls were mila, jenna's little girl, and
emma, craig's niece. and the ring bearer was poppy. [laughter] mrs. bush: she was very proud of being a ring bearer. the box was empty because they knew she could not really have the rings. craig had it in his pocket. cokie: poppy is the baby. mrs. bush: during the entire ceremony, she walked around with the ring box and showed everyone. cokie: my nephew did lose my ring. [laughter] cokie: it was actually found by a president. mrs. bush: it was a lot of fun. we have a wonderful time. it was just this weekend. george and i went from maine to washington. cokie: congratulations to everyone, and we were all very pleased to see it. but like i said, secret.
and i was just with you and your daughters and their cousins in dallas honoring barbara bush's literacy heritage. and we had a panel of the grandchildren, which was historical. but one of the things they revealed, when you talk about going in for lunch, is that you used to have a kennebunkport taco sunday with barbara bush. and then she died. mrs. bush: she died and we started having hamburger and hot dog sundays. [laughter] mrs. bush: all those years they had grown up with them. cokie: the last time you were on the stage, at least the last time i was with you on this stage, you were with michelle obama, which you have done several times. i want to come back to that a little bit. but first i want to talk about first ladies in general. we danced around it a little bit
in the video, but it is such an interesting role and an important role, and one the american people always are nervous about. you have got a lot of power, you cannot be fired. [laughter] cokie: they don't know what you are up to, except what you choose to tell them. and therefore, we create our own kind of stories about a first lady. you said and i am quoting here, "our first ladies are much more complicated than they ever get treated in the media." and i think what happens is a story goes up about them, a myth, that people stick to with all coverage of them forever after. mrs. bush: i was the quiet reader and the librarian. and i was that. there is no doubt about it. but all of our first ladies have
been a lot more complicated, and have been very constructive for our country, from the very beginning. cokie: from the very beginning. one of the great myths, they said around pouring tea until eleanor roosevelt. it makes me crazy. [laughter] cokie: you just had at the national archives a first ladies special exhibit. please tell me it was not about dresses. mrs. bush: there were a few gowns, but it was not about dresses, and we did not want it to be about dresses. people loved to come see the dresses, and we did have a dress show earlier when the library first opened with some of nancy reagan's clothes. we knew that besides wearing
lovely gowns that our first ladies have made contributions. my favorite was one that dolly madison made of the red velvet drapes, which she saved from the white house. this was a copy. but we talked about the contributions that each first lady had made. it was a show we did ourselves that the library curators came up with. it gives me the chance to thank the national archives, because of course the national archives administrator, the president's papers, they are seen as belonging to the people of the united states, and the archives administers those papers. so the national archives is a very important part of the bush library. the museum parts, and of course the storage of all the papers that are there at the bush library. so i want to thank the national
archives and the archivist and all of you for your important work. and of course, the employees at the bush library. cokie: so you talk about the role of first ladies, and again you say -- you had a very interesting session with those of us who are historians, etc., as you were leaving the white house, so i have written down every word. you said, "every time i spoke out about something come even heart disease, i would be surprised again at how many people heard me. and i often use lady bird johnson's quote about the first lady has a podium, and while she was here, she said i have decided to use it." you quoted her often about that, and you did take that to heart, deciding to use it. mrs. bush: that's right. of course, we knew lady bird. she was a texas first lady.
when she opened the while fire test wildflower center, we hosted georgia's governor -- on the lawn of the governors mansion, the picnic for the opening of the wildfire -- while plaut -- wildflower center. i always admired lady bird because she thought the way we were and are landscape was enough. it was beautiful. and it was, naturally. cokie roberts: she did not like billboards. [laughter] mrs. bush: no billboards. that was difficult to get rid of. only two states managed it, to not have the words anymore. i was with the governor of armand -- vermont when george ran for president the first time. he said they stayed until recently, to outlaw billboards. cokie roberts: using the podium, at first, the things you have done before, book festivals,
literacy. you did a conference on cognitive development in early childhood. on your way to the capital to testify before the senate education committee, why people thought you were not out there, i will not know, you heard the first plane crashed into the world trade center. cokie roberts: everything i did up into that -- mrs. bush: the national book festival was that we can before september 11. we hosted our first state dinner for mexico. we expected all of our interest in other countries to be centered around mexico. and then i was on capitol hill in ted kennedy's office about to brief his senate committee on
early childhood education when we got the word that the planes had flown into the world trade center. we thought when we heard the news, it was an accident. when we heard the second one, we knew, it was not an accident. of course, everything changed for me. the things i expected to work on, i worked on, but i added other things like supporting afghan woman and the military. those were things i never expected to work on. i made a sixth-grade report on afghanistan. [laughter] i never expected to go to afghanistan. cokie roberts: i had to do afghanistan, but that is because my name was boggs. [laughter] cokie roberts: we got to pick the countries. you then took it on. i should say, mrs. bush and senator kennedy worked together almost all day as you were trying to figure out what was going on.
senator kennedy later said you get to know somebody in a situation like that. he said she was steady, assured, and elegant. cokie roberts: -- mrs. bush: how sweet. he kept up a steady stream of smalltalk. he read me a letter that his brother jack wrote to their mother that said, teddy is getting fat. [laughter] he laughed at it. i never knew if that was the way that he had to deal with the trauma, because he had had so many in his life, or if he thought i would fall apart so he felt like he had to keep up smalltalk. senator jack greg, the minority chairman of education joined us from new hampshire. still one of our best friends. we are going to have dinner with him next weekend. his son just moved to fort worth. jed and i would look at each other while senator kennedy talked.
[laughter] he told us stories and things about his office. i do not know if he did it because that was the way he reacted or if he thought he needed to for me. we went to talk to the press, the briefing had been canceled. he changed his whole personality, became serious, for the press, really, under the circumstances. i briefed the senate community a few months later. cokie roberts: you said that you grew and the realization that you had a podium, and in your expertise about international issues that you did not come to the white house with. that really did change a lot of your focus.
you went to afghanistan three times when you are in the white house. you took on more and more. mrs. bush: i visited 76 countries. africa, asia, the middle east. cokie roberts: that was very much part of your portfolio, saving millions and millions lives in africa. talking about breast cancer in the middle east, where it was not talked about, so it cannot be treated. heart disease, all of it. cokie roberts: wow -- mrs. bush: gosh, i did a lot. [laughter] cokie roberts: there was a great dress exhibit, the first lady's red dress exhibit on heart disease. you did take on the military government of burma.
[laughter] big-time. cokie roberts: i was a secret -- mrs. bush: i was a secret friend kyi.ng san suu i would get messages at thing she wanted, like seaweed. i would send her a book that i liked that i thought maybe she would like. during all of those years, i had a friendship with her and i would send her various items and paid a lot of attention to her. finally, when we left and she was under house arrest all of those years, she had been able to be the leader of burma. now, we do not know. i do not know if the military, who always were the ones in power during the whole time, even though she was elected president, i do not know if it is a military thing or if she is compromised by the military. cokie roberts: you went to the
press room, the briefing room. on your way to jenna's wedding, you had a few things to do. you went into the press room. no first lady has them up before or sense. you grabbed the microphone and it used it to denounce the military role in burma, because they were not responding to a cyclone and had not accepted american aid. you were described as prim. [laughter] how do you account for that? [laughter] mrs. bush: in a lot of ways, it is how we treat first lady's, isn't the little old first lady nice? bless her heart. [laughter] thinking about lady bird
johnson, one of the founders of an environmental movement. people said, isn't it nice that she likes flowers? [laughter] she hated the word beautification. cokie roberts: you kept at it after you left office. keeping these causes going, particularly afghan woman, and in africa. i want to come back to you and michelle obama together. you had convened, first ladies of africa summit, which was wildly interesting. then you discovered the obamas happened to be on the continent at the same time as you and you invited mrs. obama. mrs. bush: that is one of the things we have done through the bush library, the first lady initiative.
working with first ladies who have a platform that american first lady's have. we have worked with first lady is to give them the chance to build that kind of platform has they can work on issues that their husbands are not working on. the first thing we did was an african first ladies conference. we worked with the first ladies themselves and also our staff worked with their staff to figure out ways to set up their offices so first ladies could be more effective. when you have both leaders, the husband and wife, working, you can do twice as much.
the first african first ladies conference, we hosted in africa. michelle obama was there. cokie roberts: it was better than that. [laughter] i had the honor of being the person to interview the two of you together. i got a call saying, can you be in tanzania next week? i said no. my has been said, why not? [laughter] off i went. there were the two of you. it was such an important symbol for the first ladies of africa. in many cases, it would never speak to the leader before them. because they were corrupt or there was another reason. they would not have the continuity we have with our ruler, presidents and former first ladies. it is like a club. just like the national governors association gives you the chance to be with other governors and their spouses, gives you a chance to know what is going on.
it is helpful for first ladies to be together. it is a great example both for americans to see and people in other countries to say. mrs. bush: i remember -- cokie roberts: you have basically said to mrs. obama, do whatever you want to do. you can make a speech or whatever. she could have hijacked it. she wouldn't. you knew that. she wanted to be in a conversation with you. i said as i was having a conversation, mrs. obama, you wanted to be in this conversation with mrs. bush, why? she reached her hand to you and said, i love this woman. it was such a moment of making me feel good about the country. you did it again the following year and brought the african first ladies here. during the usga in new york, when their spouses were in new york for the general assembly, we hosted it then. then you and mrs. obama did an event here this year or last year. two years, time flies. [laughter] this is what happens when you
get old. cokie roberts: even -- mrs. bush: even to first ladies. cokie roberts: it was on military statuses. do you continue that work together? mrs. bush: not really. not since they left. it does not mean we would not at some time continue to do something together, but not really. we have seen each other at funerals. cokie roberts: there was press about the fact that president -- -- mrs. bush: gave her an altoid. which was considered -- i don't know, what? i do not know why that was so fascinating. you do say there is a bond among first ladies. mrs. bush: all of the first ladies know what it is like and they are friendly with each other. maybe they would not be if they ran against each other.
the presidents and the being friends, too. cokie roberts: i remember interviewing president bush 41 soon after office and he said, i cannot imagine i will be friends with clinton the way ford and carter are. then he became the fifth son. [laughter] that also space to help president bush is, so great, courtly. that is just how he is, he would be friends with anyone. he would never have a feud. mrs. bush: i might have. [laughter] cokie roberts: i wanted to talk more about bar. i wanted to tell you things about her. at barbara's funeral, which was perfect, she planned it all and it was great.
she got to do what no one else gets to do. she put out the word she would not have more treatment so people started writing her obituaries before she died. she got to read them. [laughter] they are all very laudatory. she asked jon meacham if he would speak at her funeral. he called her and said, i am ready, do you want to hear it? [laughter] she got to hear it. painrobably was in so much then, she didn't really care and just one to go on. when we had the funeral in houston, we drove to college station where the grave site is at the first presidential library at texas a&m university. we drove there with a police escort. they stop the cars at the access roads before they got on, did
not hold up a lot of traffic. we looked at the access roads and texans were out of their cars with their cowboy hats over their hearts. it was really, really sweet. when we got to texas a&m, we walked with a casket by 700 saluting texas a&m cadets. cokie roberts: it was perfect in every way. i was covering it on television, weeping. happy tears, because she was ready to go. she told your husband -- mrs. bush: she had fallen and we had been in houston, the grand prince of saudi arabia had come to the u.s. and he wanted to meet with george. we went to houston and had lunch with him. he ended up being, we are worried about him now. barb was in the hospital because she had fallen so we went to see her. when we got the word she would not have more treatment, we did not try to see her.
all of the other kids did, but we had just seen her. george called her and said you are a map -- a wonderful mother and i am so glad you were my mother and thank you. he said, i love you. she say, i love you too, you are my favorite son. on the phone. [laughter] she stayed funny and quick and tell the end. when we had gone to see her after we saw the grand prince, we did not realize she was about to die. she said she would not have any more treatment, but we were
still planning on going to where she would be, which bedroom she would be in. we did not know it would be that soon. she was in the hospital and when george saw her, she said to the doctor, you know why george turned out why he did? she said, because i drank and smoked when i was pregnant. [laughter] cokie roberts: we should end on a somewhat serious note. civic education, something you care deeply about. our children do not learn it. these people eventually have to learn. mrs. bush: we need to teach it more. we went through a stage where we were embarrassed about ourselves, we were trying to act like we are better. the fact is, we are lucky to have inherited the institutions we have inherited.
all of the ones that support our democracy. it is important for people to know about it and be proud of it. one of the things that we are working on with women from tunisia and egypt, we started at the british institute with those two countries because they are arab spring countries. they do not have the institutions to support democracy and it has been hard in both countries. we inherited those into two shins. we did not have to do anything. it is important, i think, for people to know about them. the reason we can have a democracy is because we have those institutions, free press, independent judiciary, all of the things we have. it is important to teach that. we need to not be embarrassed about teaching it. get it on the test. cokie roberts: thank you for all of your teaching.
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> listen to the weekly podcast with three presidential historical sharing context for the trump presidency. was someonehnson who had impeachment swirling around them and not able to heal our racial divide in a country. is a will and animosity between the press and the president as early as john adams. he is the person pushing for the sedition act of 1798 and what that is, it tries to prevent criticism of the government. c-span's the weekly with
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