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

Interview of First Lady Laura Bush with ABC's Claire Shipman on Good Morning America
The Blue Room

Q We're with Mrs. Bush, who is going to talk to us a little bit about the Blue Room, which houses the official White House Christmas Tree. It's so tall this year, you had to take down the chandelier.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. It's actually secured up there where the chandelier would hang. And this fabulous tree is from Wisconsin. One of our great American Christmas tree growers grew it. And it's decorated with Barbara and Jenna's grandparents' ornaments.

Q This is so wonderful. So they've been in the White House before.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. They were here in 1989 when Barbara and George Bush were here, George H.W. Bush. And so we borrowed them from the Bush Library at Texas A&M. And they're all storybook characters like Cinderella and Captain Hook, and every storybook character you can think of is up here on the tree.

Q That fits in with the theme you've chosen for this year's Christmas.

MRS. BUSH: The whole theme, that's right.

Q A Season of Stories.

MRS. BUSH: A Season of Stories.

Q Which is lovely. How did you come up with that idea?

MRS. BUSH: Well, of course, I knew about these and I loved these when I saw them in 1989. But as a former librarian and lifelong reader, I really wanted to have one Christmas with all the stories that I think are so important for Americans to share with their children.

So on all the mantels you can see Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, some of my favorites from when I was younger. Harry Potter, one of my new favorites.

Q I saw the Harry Potter. That's wonderful.

MRS. BUSH: Frog and Toad Together, which are great books for early readers.

Q Alice in Wonderland.

MRS. BUSH: Alice in Wonderland is on the dining room table. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or the chocolate factory itself made by the pastry chef, is on the dessert table.

Q Absolutely delicious. And, of course, it wouldn't be a White House Christmas without a fantastic gingerbread house.

MRS. BUSH: Gingerbread house. I know it. Our pastry chef, Roland, builds the most fabulous gingerbread house. And this year, it's surrounded by every storybook character. And actually if you look in one of the windows of the White House, you'll see that bedroom from Goodnight Moon, which was our favorite book to read to our little babies.

Q The green room. I know, I've memorized it by now with my two-year-old.

MRS. BUSH: Exactly.

Q Before we get completely focused on Christmas, I want to talk to you about the holiday that just passed, because a lot of us are still reeling from what your husband pulled off in going to Baghdad.

Can you just give us a sense of what he said to you when you first heard about it and what you said to him?

MRS. BUSH: Well, he just told me. We would talk about it and he would say he really wanted to do that for thanksgiving. But we knew it would have to be a secret, and we didn't know if it would really -- if he'd really be able to go. And finally, on that Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, we knew that it was definitely on. So I gave him a hug goodbye. He and Condoleezza Rice were getting in the unmarked van to drive to the airport.

Q Looking like just an ordinary couple. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Exactly, as he said. And then, of course, I was anxious. He had told our girls, and they were anxious and worried. But fortunately, the next morning his parents got there. And we really had a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of us being together, Barbara and Jenna and the Bushes. And then being able to watch him on TV and watch our troops on TV.

Q So we had just recovered from that when you let it slip that you've got a bit of the adventure bug yourself and you'd like to go to Afghanistan.

MRS. BUSH: I really would. I've wanted to go for a long time, because I'm so interested in education, especially the education of little girls in Afghanistan, and in women's issues there. So I hope I'll be able to go sometime this spring. But I don't have a trip planned yet or a date picked, but I'll let you know when I do.

Q I understand your staff was a little surprised to hear about that.

MRS. BUSH: I think some of my staff might have known.

Q Would it be safe for you?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, I think so. Yes.

Q Would you be worried about that?

MRS. BUSH: I think it would be safe.

Q This is the third Christmas in the White House for you that has had -- had really difficult overtones.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

Q We're really -- yet another wartime Christmas, really.

What advice do you have for people, especially the men and women who are serving our country and are so nervous about their loved ones? How do they get through the holiday time?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, the family members of the people who are deployed, I know, are very, very anxious. And they'll have a Christmas or a holiday dinner table with an empty place for their loved one who is overseas.

I want all Americans to give them all the support they possibly can, and I know Americans will. But I also really want them to know, and our troops to know in Afghanistan and Iraq how Americans are with them, and how proud we are of them, and how grateful we are that they will serve our country like they do.

We've had three sort of sad Christmases, I guess you might say, after September 11th, the idea of the challenges that our country faces and the difficulties that terrorism bring to the world. But I also think there's a lot of optimism with the holiday season, families being together. We know how we should cherish our families and how we can't take for granted the wonderful freedoms we have and really the wonderful blessings of our country.

Q All right, Mrs. Bush. Well, thank you so much for that.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks.

Q And one final note, we were hoping to see Barney.

MRS. BUSH: We were hoping that Barney would come in. Here he is. We'll see if he'll come -- Barney, come on.

Q See little Barney, because there's such a thing as Barney cam at Christmastime.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, Barney cam is going to be released next week --

Q A camera on top of Barney and you get to see the decorations that way.

MRS. BUSH: Hey Barney. And here's Spotty. Spotty showed up, too.

Q So you're going to have Barney cam again?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Barney cam will be released, I think, next week. Barney has been carrying his camera around now to try to get a real -- a real --

Q Dog's eye view. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: A real dog's eye view of the White House decorations. So be looking for that on your -- on the website.

Q We will look online.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks.

Q Well, thank you so much, Mrs. Bush, for taking the time this morning. Appreciate it.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks a lot, Claire. Good to see you.


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