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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 15, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Congressional Club Lunch
Congressional Club
Washington, D.C.

Thank You for Your Warm Welcome. Thank You, Mary, Sandie, And Lea Ann, for Hosting this wonderful event. And thanks to Mrs. Cherie Blair for joining us this afternoon. Cherie, President Bush and I appreciate your and the Prime Minister's friendship; and all Americans appreciate the friendship of our great ally, Britain. The bonds of friendship and purpose that unite us have never been stronger, and today we pray for the British and American military men and women who are working to help the Iraqi people build a better future.

I am so pleased that Cherie is here and I am happy to be here as well - especially since I have such a busy schedule, according to a group of kindergarten students in Michigan who recently wrote to me. Their teacher had asked them, "What do you think Mrs. Bush does all day?" Shelbey wrote, "She helps the President with all of his paper work and then helps him clean up his office. She takes care of him when he is sick and puts cold cloths on his head."

Megan said, "She feeds the dogs and cooks carrot soup for dinner. She plants the daffodils and she does the President's speeches when he isn't feeling well." While Todd said, "She goes to a lot of meetings and she wears pretty suits. She also has to shovel the snow and feed the birds."

Now you understand why I am so excited to be here - I get to take a break from feeding the birds. I look forward to this lunch and to spending time with each of you. This is a time to celebrate the spirit of friendship - that common bond that unites us all. For nearly a century, the Congressional Club has provided women with an opportunity to get together and share life stories, experiences and friendship.

It is in the spirit of friendship then, that I want to talk to you about a very important issue for women. Bess Truman once said that the role of the first lady was to "sit quietly on the podium next to her husband and make sure her hat was on straight." But many First Ladies have used the forum they have to create awareness for issues that concern them. Heart disease among women is an issue of great concern to me and to our country.

As the kindergarten students know, many of us spend time taking care of other people, instead of ourselves. We may take long soaks in the tub or get facials and hair cuts, but these are little perks that make us look good on the outside. I'm talking about taking care of our health by eating right, exercising and visiting the doctor for preventive screenings.

Women love to share advice and information with each other. When a friend tells us about a miracle wrinkle cream, we immediately run out and buy it. If a co-worker recommends a fat-free recipe for triple chocolate brownies, we race home and try it. But if a friend tells us that heart disease is the number one killer of women in America and that we need to get a check-up, we dismiss it and say, "I'll go when I have time."

The time to address heart disease is now. Heart disease kills nearly 500,000 women in America every year - almost the population of Washington, DC. What is even more alarming is that few women are aware of this risk. Most women identify cancer as the leading cause of death.Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined. One in 25 women will die from breast cancer. One in 2 will die from heart disease. These statistics are disturbing. But what is even more disturbing is that heart disease is often preventable.

We must educate ourselves and other women about the risks of heart disease - and we must commit ourselves to a lifestyle that promotes lifelong health. To reduce our risk for heart disease, we can exercise, eat a healthy diet and get preventive screenings. We all know we should exercise - and we all know the excuses for not doing it - too busy, too tired, or too confused about how much is enough. But there is one absolute when it comes to exercise - any amount is better than none.

Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love to walk on trails at Camp David and at the ranch in Crawford. I especially enjoyed walking in the serene English countryside with Cherie when I visited. So grab a friend, your children or the family pet and go for a walk. With my schedule it's tough to make time to exercise, but I try to walk at least three times a week. And if my mother-in-law Barbara Bush can swim 88 laps at a time, the rest of us can surely walk 30 minutes. I also work out with free weights twice a week to increase muscle mass and bone density - which is vitally important for women.

Exercising is a great first step to good health, but it must be combined with a healthy diet. For many of us, this is truly the hard part. I especially love enchiladas, barbecue and, of course, Blue Bell ice cream. Can you tell I'm from Texas? The President and I entertain frequently at the White House. We also entertain at our ranch and guests enjoy the flavor of Texas with beef brisket and pecan pie, of course.

My New Year's resolution every year is to lose weight. But this year, my resolution was to get and to stay healthy. It's not as simple as it seems - especially not when you have a pastry chef whose idea of a "lite" desert is four layers of chocolate rather than six. Eating healthier might be easier if we followed Erma Bombeck's advice. She said, "Never order food in excess of your body weight." We can eat more fruits and vegetables to help decrease our risk for heart disease, and we can avoid eating junk food by simply not buying it.

Exercise and healthy eating will make us feel great. But only a doctor can give a clean bill of health. Women must visit their doctor regularly and get preventive screenings. Don't let heart disease go undetected. Preventive screenings, healthy eating, and exercise are vital steps we can take to reduce our risk for heart disease and improve our health.

I know how difficult making time for this can be. Because as one of my kindergarten friends Dylan said, I spend all my time picking out the President's shirts and ties. But it's important to take care of ourselves - so that we can continue to take care of all the people we love. Before I hurry home to wash all of the vases in the White House as Nathan said, I want to thank you for welcoming me today and for supporting "Everybody Wins."

"Everybody Wins" is a wonderful organization that is helping children discover the joy of reading and adults realize the joy of helping children. Thank you, Mary for your commitment to children - and thank you all very much.


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