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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 9, 2004
Interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Terry Moran with ABC News
Sea Island, Georgia
6:45 A.M. EDT
Q We're here by the lovely Georgia seashore with the First Lady. Thanks for joining us, Mrs. Bush.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Terry.
Q This week, the nation is mourning the passing of Ronald Reagan and celebrating his long and productive life. What are your thoughts at this moment?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm thinking about Nancy Reagan. My father died of Alzheimer's and I know how difficult the long goodbye was for her, and how devoted she is to him and was to him, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for her.
But, of course, I'm also thinking about him and the way he was when we knew him, when we got to come to Washington when George's dad was Vice President, and how funny he was and how he instantly made people feel at home. There's something very intimidating about meeting the President of the United States, you don't know what you're going to say and you're hoping they'll say something so you can have some sort of response. And he always was very warm and funny and fun to be with.
Q And you and the President were in Paris when the news came.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q How did you learn, and what went through your mind?
MRS. BUSH: Well, we had actually already gone to bed on Sunday night. The lights weren't off; we weren't asleep. But Andy Card came in and told the President. And so he tried to call Mrs. Reagan then and couldn't get her right then, but called later that night.
So it was sad. We were very -- we wanted to send her our love and our very best wishes. And we will call on her tomorrow night when we get back to Washington.
Q A state funeral is coming up, a major national event.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q What are your plans this coming week?
MRS. BUSH: Well, we'll be there, of course, at the funeral. We hope to host the foreign heads of state who are coming in for coffee at the White House before we go to the National Cathedral for the funeral.
President Bush, George's dad, and Barbara Bush, will be with us at the White House, and I know a few of these leaders who are here for the G8 will go on to Washington as well for the funeral.
Q You mentioned Alzheimer's. Nancy Reagan has been a strong advocate for expanding research in stem cells because a lot of people think it holds promise for the treatment and maybe even cure of Alzheimer's. President Bush has strictly limited that research.
Well, the research has actually opened up for stem cell with his decision. There are stem cell embryos ready that people can use for research. But it's a very delicate line. We have to -- it's something that has to be treated very carefully, because we're balancing scientific interests with ethical issues. And there are stem cells that are available for research, and I think that's good. There's also adult stem cell. There are other sorts of stem cell that people can use without those ethical issues of using embryos.
Q Finally on President Reagan, you are a veteran campaigner for the Presidency. He won two landslide elections and many people think he had a special connection with a lot of American voters. What was that? What was his secret?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think just exactly what I said earlier, about the way his personality was, how he was so warm and self-deprecating, but still really had a very strong character. You saw a huge strength of character in him. And I think that really appealed to the United States, to the people of the United States. It certainly appealed to us, and we had the privilege of campaigning for him, of course, because we were also campaigning for George's dad as Vice President. So we got to travel the United States in those two elections and it was a huge privilege.
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Q You and the President are hosting this summit of world leaders. It's been a tough couple of years in international relations and relations with some of the leaders who are here. What can a summit like this really do? Some people think it's kind of an expensive photo op. is it --
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it is definitely substantive and it's a chance for us to be together with other leaders and to have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with them, which we do. And last night, for instance, we hosted all the G8, the leaders and their spouses right here. The tables were set up right here. The singers that were our entertainment sang from where we are. This made a perfect stage for them.
Today, the spouses of the leaders and I will be meeting. We asked a woman from the Iraqi Governing Council and a woman from the Afghan Governing Council. We have an Iraqi Fulbright scholar, a young woman who is studying here in the United States. I don't know if people know that the Fulbright scholarships were opened up right after the fall of Saddam Hussein to Iraqi students again, and there are 25 Iraqi Fulbright scholars in the United States.
Coming to talk to us, we have a woman whose husband is the president of Roger Williams College, who worked to establish full scholarships for young Afghan women here in the United States, so they can be educated and go back and then help with the reconstruction of their country.
So we'll be talking about ways that we -- as the wives of the leaders of the most developed countries in the world with the largest economies in the world, which is what the G8 is, ways we can assist our sisters in the broader Middle East in education issues for themselves and for their children and then health care issues for themselves and their children.
Q And that's a big cultural and political goal. What do you say to the people in those societies and towns and villages who have a traditional way of the women in their society who look at what you might be suggesting and say, that's kind of cultural imperialism?
MRS. BUSH: Well, no it's not. That's not at all what we are suggesting. And one of the reasons these women are coming to talk to us is because we want to work within the traditions of their society and the culture of their society, and we respect their religion and their culture.
But we also know that infant and maternal mortality, for instance, in Afghanistan, the rates of it are some of the highest in the world. And that it's imperative for the people in Afghanistan and Iraq and for all of us to make sure health care issues for women and children are the best they can possibly be.
And all of us watched two years ago when little girls in Afghanistan went to school for the first time in their lives, and we want educated girls and educated women worldwide. Because we know that girls and women -- or women make most of the decisions for their families, their health care decisions and their education decisions. And educated women can make really good decisions for their children.
Q How about the question of women's rights? The notion, for example, of women driving in Saudi Arabia?
MRS. BUSH: Well both Iraq and Afghanistan in their constitutions that they're writing have guaranteed the rights of women and women are involved in their governments. Both of the women from the governing councils of those two countries who are coming are involved in the reconstruction of their countries. And that's really important.
You know, a society who denies half of their population from being involved in their society in any way is a society that will have a lot of trouble developing. And I see, you know -- what we are working for is to have equality within the traditions of each one of these countries.
Q Very ambitious goal.
MRS. BUSH: It is.
Q Mrs. Bush, thanks very much for being with us this morning.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much. Thank you, Terry.