A self-professed bookworm, Laura Bush grew up with a passion for literature that heavily influences her life. The only child of Harold and Jenna Welch, she was born and reared in Midland, Texas. When Laura was a child, her mother took her to the local library where they chose books to take home and read together. A love of reading translated into a keen interest in education. In a speech to the 2000 Republican National Convention, Mrs. Bush said, "Growing up, I practiced teaching my dolls. Years later, our daughters did the same thing. We used to joke that the Bush family had the best educated dolls in America."
Laura dreamed of being a teacher, and credits her own second grade teacher for helping to cement that dream. With a bachelor's degree in education from Southern Methodist University, Laura taught reading to grade school students in Dallas. Then she realized what she enjoyed most was reading to children. She earned her master's degree in library science from the University of Texas at Austin, and began working as a school librarian.
Laura Welch's life crossed paths several times with George W. Bush's before they were introduced. He went to a rival elementary school, but they attended junior high school together. After college, they lived in the same Houston apartment complex. But the two did not meet until mutual friends invited them to a backyard barbecue in Midland. They knew it was a match. Three months later, they married. Their twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna (named for their grandmothers), were born in 1981.
After her husband was elected Texas governor in 1994, Laura Bush launched an early childhood development initiative to help prepare infants and young children for learning and reading when they enter school. She helped organize the Texas Book Festival, which became an annual fundraiser for public libraries. She promoted historic preservation, the arts, Texas tourism, and volunteerism. She also called attention to women's health issues and to Alzheimer's Disease, which her father suffered from before his death in 1995.
When George W. Bush decided to run for president, she hit the campaign trail with him--a bit reluctantly at first. "When George asked me to marry him, he promised me I'd never have to give a speech. So much for political promises," she quipped. Yet, Mrs. Bush's top priority remained her family. She often returned home to spend time with Barbara and Jenna, then seniors in high school. Her strong support at home and positive influence on the road helped the family through the campaign. In January 2001, her husband was sworn in as 43rd president of the United States.