Bush, Laura

Bush, Laura
▪ 2006

      First lady Laura Bush set aside her reluctance to enter the political arena and in 2004 became a very prominent and popular campaigner for her husband, George W. Bush, who sought reelection; her 80% popularity rating in the polls (the president's was 47%) was viewed by pollsters as a political asset for the president, who started his second term in office in 2005.

      It soon became clear that the first lady would assume a higher profile in the president's second term. Days after the inaugural galas, in which she stepped out in a fitted Oscar de la Renta gown that accentuated a figure reshaped by yoga and weightlifting, she hired a new social secretary and fired the longtime White House chef. On May 1 she delighted attendees at a Washington press dinner with a lighthearted roast of the president when she interrupted her husband's remarks with a string of zingers. Later that month she gamely embarked alone on a five-day goodwill tour of the Middle East at a time when regard for the U.S. throughout much of the region was particularly low. Addressing the World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, Laura Bush called for increased attention to women's rights and greater access to education as a means of combating terrorism. In Jerusalem she conceded that the U.S. had real work to do to improve its image in the region, but she also strongly endorsed the Bush administration's policies there. While in Cairo she taped an episode of the television show Alam Simsim, the Egyptian equivalent of Sesame Street. In July she was warmly received in South Africa, Tanzania, and Rwanda, where she served as a goodwill ambassador.

      Laura Lane Welch was born on Nov. 4, 1946, in Midland, Texas. She graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.S. in education in 1968 and taught in elementary schools in Dallas and Houston from 1969 until 1972. After earning (1973) a master's degree in library science from the University of Texas, she worked as a librarian in Houston and Austin. She met George W. Bush in June 1974, and after a whirlwind courtship they married on November 5. Soon afterward, when her husband began an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Congress, Laura Bush made him promise that she would never be asked to give a speech. In 1981 she gave birth to twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. Following her husband's election to the Texas governor's office in 1994, she promoted literacy programs and raised funds for public libraries. After the presidential campaign of 2000, which saw her address the Republican national convention, Laura Bush pursued a similar role as the nation's first lady, continuing to promote reading and establishing a foundation to raise funds for libraries. She quietly began, however, to assume a higher profile as an advocate for her husband's administration on such issues as democracy, women's education, and health, but she maintained that her own views on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, and gay rights would remain private.

Janet Moredock

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Universalium. 2010.

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