From the moment her mother introduced her to the wonders inside the Midland (Texas) County Library, Laura Bush developed a passion for reading and a love of literature that heavily influenced her life. “Little did I know,” she recalled, “that my mother was paving the way for my success in school, while teaching me the value of a good education.”
As an only child in Midland, she practiced teaching on her dolls; as a young adult after graduating from Southern Methodist University, she taught reading to grade school children in Houston and Dallas, went on to a master’s degree in library science at the University of Texas and was an elementary school librarian in Austin, Texas, when she met her future husband, George W. Bush, at a backyard barbecue. They were married in 1977. Twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, were born in 1981.
In 1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas. As first lady of Texas, Mrs. Bush helped organize the Texas Book Festival, which raised funds for public libraries. She promoted the arts, historic preservation, and volunteerism.
When George W. Bush decided to run for president in 2000, she joined 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.
As first lady, she moved quickly to highlight women’s health issues and challenges confronting children by creating the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Initiative, conducting a White House summit meeting on early childhood development, and hosting a conference on Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers. She also initiated the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival. At the start of his second term, President Bush named her to lead Helping America’s Youth, a national initiative designed to help at risk children and teens.
The hardships of women and children in repressive societies also drew her attention. As Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), she spoke out consistently for improving the education of children.
In 2001, Mrs. Bush became the first presidential spouse to deliver the White House weekly radio address, which highlighted the Taliban’s repressive treatment of Afghan women. She traveled to Africa to promote the President’s AIDS and malaria initiatives and, in 2006, co-hosted the first White House Summit on Malaria. In a dramatic 2008 White House press conference and a blunt Wall Street Journal editorial, she drew the world’s attention to human rights violations in Burma and challenged its leadership to accept humanitarian aid.
By the time she left the White House, Mrs. Bush had taken her personal diplomacy and passionate commitment to education to more than seventy-five nations.
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