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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 23, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

3:30 P.M. CST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very, very much, Kathy. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I want to thank the women who are here with me also in front of the red dresses. All of the women that are here on the stage with us are heart disease survivors.

And all of us, I think, were very shocked to find out that heart disease is the number one cause of death among American women. We all thought that heart disease was a man's disease. And Kathy's story is what happens to so many women. And that is they are embarrassed to call 911. They think the symptoms they have are just something that they can lie down and get over. And so they're slower to get to the emergency room than men are.

And because of that, about 65,000 more women will die of heart disease this year than men. Because women don't know what their risks are. They are slow to seek help. And even doctors, when they go to the emergency room, just like Kathy said, sometimes think you must just be having an anxiety attack. Because even doctors in many cases don't realize that heart disease is the number one killer of women.

And so that's what the red dress project is all about. That's -- this is my suit made by Oscar de la Renta that I added to the Red Dress Project. These beautiful dresses behind us are made by very famous American designers, Carolina Herrera and Badgley Mischka and I've forgotten -- oh the third one is Diane von Furstenberg, these three dresses that are here.

So I'm here today to tell you that all the red dresses of the Red Dress Project will be here in Calumet City at River Oaks Center this weekend, starting Friday morning. They'll be there through late Sunday afternoon.

And I'm going to urge all the women in the Chicago area to go out to see the red dresses. But also while you're there, to get information about heart disease.

They will be giving free screenings, free blood pressure and cholesterol, and other screenings to everybody that wants them when they come to the Red Dress Project. And so I want to really encourage women to get out here and find out about heart disease.

Once again, it's at Calumet City at the River Oaks Center. So I want to encourage everyone to come see those dresses.

The good news about heart disease is that it can often be prevented. There are steps women can take to avoid heart disease, and they include keeping a healthy weight, exercising, eating healthy foods, not smoking, getting preventive screenings, and then knowing what your risks are.

And if you have any symptoms that at all seem like a heart -- heart disease, go straight on to the emergency room. Don't wait.

And many times, women -- Kathy said that she had the very typical symptoms that we think of that men have quite often, shortness of breath, tingling in her hands, severe chest pain. But a lot of times women don't have that. Women might have pain in their shoulder blade or just in their jaw.

One woman that heard me talk about the Heart Truth Campaign in Kansas City, she heard it on television. And that night, she woke up and she had a burning sensation in her shoulderblade. She had had extreme fatigue, she had actually already been to her doctor because she was so fatigued. But he had given her a clean bill of health.

After she heard that women don't always have the same symptoms that men do, she woke up at night and told her husband, I think I'm having a heart attack, and went to the hospital where she was having a heart attack.

But now she is doing the same thing Kathy is doing, and that is spreading the word. She is speaking wherever she can in the Kansas City area, she is visiting churches, visiting other community groups to let women know about heart disease.

And so that's what I want to ask all of you to do, all the members of the media as well. Get the word out to women so they can make those lifestyle changes that will help them have a healthy heart. Or if they have any symptoms, talk with their doctors, go to the emergency room if they think they're having a heart attack.

So thank you all, and I'll be glad to answer questions.

Q Mrs. Bush, do you yourself have any heart disease in your family, genetically, running through.

MRS. BUSH: I don't that I know of. My father died of Alzheimer's. And my mother is still living. She'll be 85 this summer. She does have high blood pressure, which is sometimes a symptom of it.

But just like Kathy said, there are a lot of people who know they have heart disease in their family, their brothers or parents have died of a heart attack. But even if you don't have heart disease in your family, you might still be at risk.

Q Mrs. Bush, can you tell us how you came to be involved with the project?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I was so surprised because I, like most women, I think thought that cancer was the number one killer of women. And when I found out heart disease was and that, in fact, more women than men will die of heart disease -- heart disease is the number one cause of death among women and men in the United States.

So when I found out more women than men will die of heart disease, I really felt obligated to get the message out. Because I knew that if I didn't know that, that there were a lot of other women who wouldn't know it, either.

I've done a lot of work on breast cancer awareness and many other women's health issues, so I wanted to join the Heart Truth Campaign to also let women know about this.

And the good news is, those steps that women can take to avoid heart disease also are great steps to avoid cancer. So we can really help ourselves if we remember to eat healthy foods, to get exercise. And that means, they're saying now, just 30 minutes a day of walking. Really get up off the couch to make sure you get exercise, to try to maintain a healthy weight. Obese women are at a much higher risk of having heart disease. To get the preventive screenings, and to take charge of your own health.

And the other side benefit of that is that women make about 75 percent of the health choices for their families. So if women are making good choices for themselves, then you know they're making good choices for their children.

And all of us -- and I know all of you have reported on the rising obesity among children. It's really important for women to make those healthy choices and be great role models for their little boys and little girls.

Q Mrs. Bush, have you made any changes in your own life as a result of being involved --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I've paid a lot more attention to it. I'll have to say that. I already exercised and I still do that. My husband is a really great example to me.

When we first married and he made that promise to me that I'd never have to give a political speech -- (laughter) -- the other side of the story, which I promised him I'd run with him and I never did, ever, not even once. (Laughter.)

So I've had a really good example in my home of somebody who has gotten exercise. So I work out now, work out with weights. I walk on the treadmill. I love to walk outside if I have the chance. When the weather gets better, I'll start being able to do that again.

But also, I pay attention to the foods that we eat.

Q Mrs. Bush, the significance to you of the suit that you've donated?

MRS. BUSH: This is an Oscar de la Renta red suit that I actually did not buy from the designer himself, although I'm lucky to be able to do that now. I bought this before my husband was inaugurated and I bought it from a store in Dallas. And I wore it in a Vogue photo shoot after he was inaugurated. And then I wore it in Mexico with President Fox and Mrs. Fox at an event that they had. I also wore it in China.

I love to wear American designers, and especially I like to wear them when I'm in other countries, because I'm proud of our American fashions.

Q Still fit?

MRS. BUSH: Still fits.

Q Is it a little small? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: I think it's too big. (Laughter.)

Q Mrs. Bush, what is your reaction to Richard Clark's outlook?

MRS. BUSH: Well, now we can go off heart disease but I want to ask all of you to be sure and cover this. I hope you will cover the heart disease, and the Red Dress Project will really get the word out to women. Come to Calumet City, to the River Center and see this.

But now I'll move on to other questions.

When my husband was inaugurated and he swore to protect and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States, he took that very, very seriously. And for someone to imply that he doesn't is just wrong. And that's what I think about it.

Any other questions?

Q Mrs. Bush, tomorrow the Supreme Court is going to take up the issue of the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. I know that's very important to you and to President Bush as well. Do you care to comment on that as well?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I mean, I think it's a legitimate issue for the Supreme Court to take up, and I'll be interested to see what they do.

Q Mrs. Bush, as you enter into this next political campaign, perhaps your husband's last --

MRS. BUSH: It will be his last. (Laughter.) I can tell you that.

Well, I'm looking forward to it, I really am. And I'm sort of nostalgic about it. As I watched the Democratic candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire and all the other primary states, I remembered what that was like when we had a primary three years ago.

And, you know, there are horrible moments in political campaigns, as everybody knows. But there are also a lot of really great moments. We met wonderful people in all of his campaigns, starting with the first one in 1978 for Congress, when we lived in the panhandle of West Texas.

So I look forward to it. I look forward to campaigning. I have done a lot already, traveled around and done some fundraisers for Bush-Cheney. I'll be doing some more.

But there's a certain nostalgia with it. It's an unbelievable privilege to be able to travel around the United States and campaign for public office, it really is.

And what we see, what the President and I get to see is how great Americans are, and we see that every day, wherever we are. And this is a good example of it. You know, these women who have suffered a loss in their lives, a loss of their health that worried them so much. And now what they want to do is support and help other women. This is just one example of millions that we get to see of the good work Americans do.

Q Any idea of when we might see President Bush here in Illinois again?

MRS. BUSH: He'll be here. I don't know what his schedule is.

Q He hasn't been for a while.

MRS. BUSH: I don't know what his schedule is, but he'll be here.

Q Mrs. Bush, do you regret the look and tone that the campaign has taken so early on?

MRS. BUSH: Well, you know, sure. Yes, no one wants a negative campaign. No one likes it when the person they love is criticized or characterized in a way that you know they're not.

We had a long primary season. The other candidates had a long primary season and they spent a long time and spent a lot of money as well running against my husband and saying a lot of things about him that I don't like, of course.

But I also know that that's just a part of political life and I hope it's not discouraging to people. I think it actually might discourage people from actually getting involved in public service themselves, because it seems discouraging. I hope it won't be. There are a lot of really good parts about it too.

Q Mrs. Bush, has your mother-in-law given you any advice? As you mentioned, this reelection phase, that she went through with her own husband --

MRS. BUSH: Well, of course, we watched. We were very personally involved in that election in 1992. We lived in Dallas at the time.

But whenever it's somebody you love running for office, you feel real personal involvement in the race.

She really hasn't. I love my mother-in-law. She's terrific. She's very funny. She's a lot of fun. We were together recently when they happened to be in Washington for a cancer event. They are both very happy to -- the national dialogue on cancer.

And we commiserated, we had a good time commiserating about whose article we liked to read and whose we didn't. Whose column we liked to read, I guess, and whose we didn't, and what shows we liked to watch and which ones we didn't. It's wonderful to have that kind of support from your mother-in-law.

Q Mrs. Bush, what are your thoughts on the violence in the Middle East?

MRS. BUSH: Like everyone here, praying for peace. Hoping and wishing and praying that people will put violence aside and that we'll have peace in the Middle East.

I know that's what everyone in America, certainly, is hoping for.

Q Security sources in Israel are saying that they're planning to target all the leaders of Hamas. What is your reaction to that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's deeply troubling, it really is. I mean, I understand their side of it. We are also in the war against terror.

But at the same time, I think as many people as can come to the table to work for peace -- the more people that can come to the table and work for peace, the better off we'll all be.

Thank you all. Thanks so much, and thanks for covering the red dresses. Get the word out. (Applause.)

3:46 P.M. CST END

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