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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 4, 2003

Interview of First Lady Laura Bush with NBC's Norah O'Donnell on the Today Show
The East Room

Q Good morning, and we are in the beautifully decorated East Room with the First Lady.

M RS . Bush, thank you very much for having us here.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Norah. So glad you're here.

Q This is your third Christmas here.

MRS. BUSH: This is our third Christmas. It's hard to believe we've already had three Christmases. But it's such a really festive and fun time around the White House, when the decorators come in from around the country, people who volunteer to come put all these ornaments up and then what they produce is so terrific at the end of the time. So I'm really excited to show it to you.

Q Thank you. Well, I understand this year you've chosen an interesting theme, Season of Stories, which is a theme I'm sure near and dear to your heart as a former librarian.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, as an old librarian and longtime -- life long reader. It's been really fun. I picked books that I particularly loved, Nancy Drew and my newest favorite, Harry Potter, who's back here over my shoulder.

Q Oh, cool.

MRS. BUSH: I read all the Harry Potter books, all five of them, this summer and it was like finding a great mystery writer and having that whole body of work to read at once. I really loved them.

Q As you know, there will be over 100,000 men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq --

MRS. BUSH: Deployed.

Q -- fighting the war on terror. Do you have an message for them and for their families who will be missing their loved ones this holiday?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I really do, and I know that all Americans do. All Americans send our love and our prayers to those people who are serving us and serving our country in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And to all their families, who will have an empty place at the table this holiday season, we send our very best, our very best wishes and our support. And I know that Americans all over the country will figure out ways to help those families, to let those families know that they're there for them this holiday season.

Q Now, earlier this week when you were receiving the big Christmas tree which we saw earlier -- tell me about the Christmas tree, 18-and-a-half feet tall?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. It's a beautiful, beautiful tree from Wisconsin, and now it's decorated with ornaments that we actually borrowed from Barbara and Jenna's grandparents, President Bush and Barbara Bush. They were the ornaments that were on their tree their first Christmas here in 1989, and they're all storybook characters. There are 72 of them. They're about two feet tall, and there's every character you can think of, Rapunzel and Peter Pan and all the great stories that children and adults love to share with each other, and especially love to share with each other over the holidays.

Q You didn't have any problem getting Barbara Bush to lend you those, did you?

MRS. BUSH: No problem. (Laughter.)

Q Let me ask you, because earlier this week you let it slip that you were interested in traveling to Afghanistan. Are you planning a trip to Afghanistan?

MRS. BUSH: I don't have a real trip planned. I mean, I haven't picked a date. But I certainly hope that I'll be able to go sometime this spring. I've been particularly interested in women's issues in Afghanistan and worked with Karen Hughes and other people on some of the issues that women in Afghanistan are facing and ways Americans can help, especially education for girls.

So I hope I'll have the chance to go. But I don't have a specific trip planned yet. I'll let you know when that happens.

Q And speaking of trips, your husband made a surprise visit to Baghdad for Thanksgiving. When did you know about that? And was it hard keeping it a secret from the girls and from --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I knew about it for a while before, not that it was specifically going to happen but that he was hoping it would happen. We just didn't talk about it that much. But every once in a while he'd say, well I think it looks like it's still on.

And then finally, on the Wednesday before, we knew for sure that it was, and he and Dr. Rice, Condoleezza left in their unmarked vans. I gave him a hug on the front porch as they got in their vans to drive off. And, of course, I was very anxious about it. But also I'm really, really proud of him. And I'm so proud of those American troops that are there serving now.

Q And let me ask you finally then about Christmas. Is he going anywhere for Christmas? Are you going anywhere for Christmas?

MRS. BUSH: This Christmas, we'll just be here at the White House. I mean, what a beautiful place to get to be. We'll be here up until almost Christmas day and then we'll go to Camp David, and then after that we'll go to our ranch.

Q No surprise visits?

MRS. BUSH: No surprise visits.

Q All right, there you've heard it from the First Lady herself.

Thank you, again.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Norah.

Q The White House looks beautiful, and thank you for sharing it with us and everybody, our viewers. We appreciate it.


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