JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 20, 2010– Despite the media regularly portraying her as a stereotypical 1950s-era housewife who kept her opinions to herself, former first lady Laura Bush has plenty of strong beliefs about national and international affairs, she said Oct. 19.
She shared some of those opinions during her address at Union University’s 13th annual Scholarship Banquet at the Carl Perkins Civic Center. The event drew about 1,700 people and raised about $600,000 for student scholarships, bringing to more than $5 million the total amount that has been raised for student support through the Scholarship Banquet.
Bush talked about the eight years she spent in the White House, and about how she and her husband George are adjusting to their post-presidential life in Texas.
“When you’re married to the president of the United States, you don’t worry too much about him leaving his towels on the floor,” she said. “But in Dallas, things are different.”
Bush said the last few years of history, beginning with her husband’s narrow win in the 2000 election, have been a transformative time in the United States and around the world. At the start of their term, Bush said they expected challenges from within the nation would be more substantial than international issues.
But then the terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, ushering in a new era in world history. Bush talked about her experience that day when she was first informed that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and she remembers her thoughts lying in bed that night. Though she and her family members were safe, “All we could think about were the thousands of Americans who couldn’t say the same thing about their own loved ones,” she said.
She also addressed some of the issues that became priorities for her during her time as first lady, such as literacy and women’s healthcare and education.
“I believe that every child in America should learn to read,” Bush said. “I believe that literacy is an essential foundation for democracy. I know from my own experience as a reader and a librarian that books have the power not just to move people as individuals, but to shape our journey as a nation.”
During her time in the White House, Bush was also an advocate for the rights and freedoms of women, especially women in countries that denied them a voice in their government.
“Research shows that when you educate and empower women, you improve nearly every other aspect of society,” Bush said. “By giving women access to education and healthcare, they not only improve the wellbeing of their own families, but their communities and their countries as well.”
Bush recalled the day that she and George left the White House. Though the day was marked by a wide range of emotions, she said mostly they felt a solemn pride in the work they had done. She said her greatest honor as first lady was witnessing Americans facing up to their fears and standing proudly.
Bush began her speech by quoting John Adams, who once said, “There are two educations – one should teach us how to make a living, and the other should teach us how to live.”
“Since its founding in 1823, Union University has taught its students both,” Bush said. “Thanks to Union University’s academically challenging curriculum, as well as its focus on practical applications, graduates leave Union prepared for a life of service.”
Prior to her address at the civic center, Bush visited the Union campus and spent a few minutes with about 20 student leaders. She spoke to Kristin Tisdale, a junior nursing major from Hendersonville, Tenn., about her future plans in the nursing field.
“She’s got a great presence,” Tisdale said. “She’s done a lot of great things. Being a first lady, it’s definitely a position of not necessarily power, but influence that not many people can have, especially in her field of study of library science.”
Micah Roeder, a senior from Earle, Ark., and president of Union’s Student Government Association, also had a chance to speak to Bush.
“You always see her on TV and hear stories about her, and it’s neat to actually to be able to have a conversation with her,” Roeder said. “She has a love for education and a love for people, and the way that she pushes herself to help other people is admirable.”
10/19/10 - Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, greets Melanie Taylor, sophomore sports ministry major, on Union's campus before speaking at the 13th annual Scholarship Banquet. - Beth Spain
10/19/10 - David S. Dockery, Union University President, welcomes guests to the 13th annual Scholarship Banquet, featuring keynote speaker Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States. - Victoria Stargel
10/19/10 - Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, speaks at Union University's 13th Annual Scholarship Banque. She delivered personal anecdotes and perspectives about her time in the White House. - Victoria Stargel
10/19/10 - Dr. David S. Dockery, president of Union University, asks Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, questions prompted by the attending donors and students of Union University at the 13th Annual Scholarship Banquet. - Ebbie Davis
10/19/10 - David S. Dockery, president of Union University, presents Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, with gifts bearing significance to Union. Dockery presented a study Bible, to which several Union faculty contributed, and a Lady Bulldogs baseball cap, representing Union's national title in women's basketball. - Victoria Stargel
10/19/10 - David S. Dockery, Union University President, welcomes guests to the 13th annual Scholarship Banquet, featuring keynote speaker Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States. - Morris Abernathy
10/19/10 - Lanese Dockery, first lady of Union University, thanks Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, for speaking at the 13th annual Scholarship Banquet and presents her with roses. - Morris Abernathy