Laura Bush

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First Lady Laura Bush
First Lady Laura Bush

Laura Lane Bush (born November 4, 1946) is the wife of U.S. President George W. Bush and is the First Lady of the United States. She was named the second most powerful woman in the United States and the fourth most powerful in the world by Forbes magazine in 2004. [1]


Early life

Laura Bush was born Laura Lane Welch in Midland, Texas, the only child of Harold Bruce Welch (19121995) and Jenna Louise Hawkins (born 1919) and her family were conservative Democrats, as was almost everyone else in Texas at that time. She grew up in Midland and attended the same junior high school as her future husband (she did not know him at the time) and the same high school (Robert E. Lee High School) as Tommy Franks.

In May 2000, a two-page police report about a fatal car crash caused by Bush when she was 17 was made public. The report says that on November 6, 1963 Bush (then Laura Welch) was driving her Chevrolet sedan with her classmate Judy Dyke. It was shortly after 8 pm on a clear night when Welch entered the intersection of U.S. Highway 349 and Texas Farm Road 868. Bush failed to observe the intersection's stop sign and collided into a Chevrolet Corvair sedan driven by her ex-boyfriend Michael Dutton Douglas, also 17. Bush and Dyke sustained minor injuries; Douglas was pronounced dead on arrival at Midland Memorial Hospital. Welch was not ticketed or charged in connection with the collision.

College years and marriage

Jenna and Barbara Bush with their parents George W. Bush and Laura Bush
Jenna and Barbara Bush with their parents George W. Bush and Laura Bush

Bush earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1968 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. After graduating, she became a school teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Dallas Independent School District until 1969. She then taught at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, a Houston Independent School District school in Houston, until 1972.

Bush also earned a Master of Science degree in Library Science in 1973 from the University of Texas at Austin. After that, she worked at the Kashmere Gardens Branch at the Houston Public Library until 1974, when she moved back to Austin. She was a librarian at an Austin Independent School District school, Dawson Elementary School, until 1977.

She met George W. Bush in 1977 and after a three month courtship married him on November 5 of that year. In 1981, she gave birth to twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who have now graduated from college.

Several times a year, Bush and her husband travel to their sprawling family estate, the Bush Compound. Located in Kennebunkport, Maine, the compound is where Bush family gatherings have been held for nearly 100 years.

First Lady of Texas and the United States

Mexican First Lady Marta Sahagún and Laura Bush
Mexican First Lady Marta Sahagún and Laura Bush

Bush became the first lady of Texas when her husband was elected as the Governor of Texas and served as first lady of that state from 1995 to 2000. After the outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election was finally resolved in December 2000, her husband resigned as Texas Governor to prepare for his inauguration as President of the United States in January 2001; Bush then became the First Lady of the United States.

First Lady of the United States

As First Lady of the United States, she has championed education causes and women's health issues, and launched the first National Book Festival. She also worked for women's and children's causes while she was the First Lady of Texas, when she established the Adopt-a-Caseworker Program and the Rainbow Room program. Bush has taken a decidedly less prominent role in policy-making than her predecessors.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush took an interest in mitigating the emotional effects of the attacks on children, which were disturbing particularly as the images were repeatedly replayed on TV. Many schools closed early, especially those with children whose parents worked in Washington, D.C. or New York City. The following day, after consulting with many experts, Bush commented to parents that it was not good for children to be exposed to the numerous replays of the incidents, [2] and that parents should consider turning off the television, especially understanding how children reacted when watching television coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. She also composed open letters which she distributed through state education officials. A "Dear Students" letter went to middle and high school students [3], while elementary school students got one saying, "Dear Children." [4]

In November 2001, she became the first person other than a president to deliver the weekly presidential radio address. She used the opportunity to discuss the plight of women in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In May 2002, she made a speech to the people of Afghanistan through Radio Liberty, a radio station in Prague, Czech Republic.

Her Secret Service codename was reported to be "Tempo" (the Secret Service changes codenames as soon as they become public knowledge).

While her First Lady approval ratings remained high (some polls said 85% approval) as her husband's approval ratings slid she began to take a stronger role in his second term.

Laura Bush with Vicente Fox, Marta Sahagún, and George W. Bush
Laura Bush with Vicente Fox, Marta Sahagún, and George W. Bush

In April 2005, Bush joked about her husband at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington, D.C. She called her husband "Mr. Excitement" and said she told him that if he wanted to "end tyranny in the world" he would have to stay up later. She even used the old joke that he "tried to milk a horse ... and what's worse it was a male horse." She also jokingly compared mother-in-law Barbara Bush to "Don Corleone."

In May 2005, as Bush traveled through the Middle East, she was heckled by some bystanders in Jerusalem, appeared on Egypt's version of Sesame Street, endorsed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's upcoming election plans, and in Jordan said that women should have the right to "speak and vote and worship freely." That same month Lynne Cheney said on "Larry King Live" that Mrs. Bush should run for President in 2008. Dick Cheney concurred, leading to some press musings of a Laura Bush/Hillary Clinton matchup.

On July 12, 2005 while in South Africa on an AIDS mission, Bush suggested her husband replace retiring Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor with another woman. Her husband seemed surprised when reporters asked him about her quote, but said he couldn't wait to hear her advice. On October 2, during a private dinner at the White House with Laura, President Bush asked Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor. [5] Later that month, after Miers had faced intense criticism, Bush questioned whether the charges were sexist in nature [6].

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, speaking at a press conference from a relief center in Lafayette on September 2, 2005, Laura Bush was asked about the fact that most of the people stuck in New Orleans were poor and black. The First Lady said that while the poor are always the main victims of natural disasters, there is nothing that can be done about it. "This is what happens when there's a natural disaster of this scope," Mrs. Bush said. "The poorer people are usually in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to natural disaster. And that is just always what happens." [7]

Bush came under criticism for her failure to know the name of the hurricane that had ravaged the town. Instead of its proper name of Katrina, she misidentified it "Curina". [8]

Further reading

External links

Preceded by:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by:

First Ladies of the United States U.S. presidential seal
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