The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 26, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Interview on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno
NBC Studios
Los Angeles, California

photos  Photos

4:51 P.M. PDT

Q I like your new hair style.

MRS. BUSH: Yes, I've got a new style.

Q It looks very cool. I like that, very nice.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks.

Q Kind of a, I don't know, Dorothy Hamill short-and-sassy kind of look. (Laughter.) I'm showing my age.

MRS. BUSH: No, yes, exactly. Nobody here has ever heard of Dorothy Hamill. Some have.

Laura Bush waits in the wings before her appearance on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in Los Angeles April 26, 2005.  White House photo by Krisanne Johnson Q Now, I'm always flattered when you come here, and I'm also surprised. But I'm thrilled that you come here. (Laughter.) You know, we do a lot of jokes with everybody. Do you ever just want to, like, punch comedians sometimes?

MRS. BUSH: Hmm. (Laughter.)

Q Come on. Not necessarily me. (Laughter.) I mean other comedians.

MRS. BUSH: Sure. Not really. I mean, I really don't - I usually am pretty amused about most comedians. But if I were you, I'd look out for Barbara Bush. (Laughter.)

Q Barbara? That's right. Well, you know, I told you that story once before. I met her one time, and she said, hi, nice to meet you, stop doing jokes about my son. Ow, ow, ow, and she -- but she had a grip, like, my fingers are, like, cracking. I said, yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am. (Laughter.)

Now, I was just checking something. You have an 85 percent approval rating, which is higher than I think any politician. Is that -- did you watch the polls? Do you look at those things?

MRS. BUSH: No. I don't really, I don't really. I mean, of course, I look at my husband's polls.

Q Yes, yes.

MRS. BUSH: Not really. (Laughter.)

Q Do you ever go, nyah, nyah, my polls are higher than your polls?

MRS. BUSH: No, but I might do that.

Q Oh, that would be -- would you ever run for office? You have a high approval rating.

MRS. BUSH: No, but I know this is the seat that people announce for governor of California.

Q Now, did you want to make an announcement from that seat? (Laughter.)


Q No interest.

MRS. BUSH: Not interested. (Laughter.)

Q Oh, okay. Now, I know you've been in Los Angeles. You're visiting schools.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

Q Tell us about that.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm working on an initiative called Helping America's Youth, and tomorrow I'm going to visit a school here in Los Angeles, a middle school and a high school that does a lot of work with students who have made it that far but haven't learned to read. And there's actually a lot of new research that shows you can teach students that age to read pretty quickly if you're very systematic about it.

Q I mean, it is amazing, you wouldn't think that in America -- and the percentage is quite large --

MRS. BUSH: It's quite large.

Q Isn't it, like 30 or 25? I don't --

MRS. BUSH: It's very large. And a lot of the kids that get that far drop out because they're frustrated and embarrassed, really, and because by the time you get to high school, about 90 percent of your work is dependent on your reading ability. And of course, a lot of those people who drop out are boys. So I think we need to pay special attention to boys. Right now, the statistics aren't that great on boys in the United States.

Laura Bush talks with Jay Leno of The Tonight Show during a taping of the show in Los Angeles April 26, 2005.  White House photo by Krisanne Johnson Q See, that's interesting, because you -- I've heard you talk about this. You feel boys have been somewhat overlooked in the last -- explain a little bit.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think we all bought into the stereotype about boys, that they can take care of themselves, that they don't require the same nurturing that we give girls. And the fact -- we know that intuitively is not right. And right now, all the statistics are bad. About 56 percent of the people who graduate from college will be women. And more -- a larger number than that will be women graduating from graduate school. So fewer young men are going to college. More of them drop out. We know that about 95 percent of gang involvement are boys.

I think there are a lot of ways we need in our country to pay attention to boys and see what we can do to help them.

Q So do you think the fact that boys -- they don't learn how to read so they go to a gang and you go -- and the culture itself embraces an ignorance, so to speak, and it just fosters. Is that how it works?

MRS. BUSH: I think that happens. I also think because we don't nurture boys, a lot of times they're left on their own, that we expect more of them, we expect them to be self-reliant and expect them to be able to be home -- stay home after school when the parents are at work. And we know that's a very high crime time in the U.S., those hours between when school's out and when parents come home from work.

Also, many boys are growing up without male role models. They are growing up without a father in their life, and that's really too bad. I hope that a lot of men will consider teaching school, because we just need more --

Q Male teachers.

MRS. BUSH: Yes, men in the lives of boys.

Q Well, how else can we reach boys? I mean, what else do you -- what is the cure?

MRS. BUSH: Well, one thing that I'm going to go to later today is a Shakespeare program, "Will Power to Youth," it's called, it's here in Los Angeles. And it's a way to use acting and Shakespeare to get kids into --

Q Will boys really want -- Shakespeare, come on. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: They actually love it. Think about Shakespeare. It's bloody.

Q It's bloody, yes.

MRS. BUSH: All those things that boys might like.

Q See, I couldn't see myself -- "Hey, you gang-bangers, come on over here for some Shakespeare." (Laughter.) Seems like it would be tricky to do.

MRS. BUSH: Well, these maybe aren't gang kids.

Q Okay, I gotcha. Now, you get advice from school kids, you told me. You got some advice from children.

MRS. BUSH: I got some -- well, actually, I read a letter recently that was all advice to the President. Like they suggested that he eat macaroni and cheese. (Laughter.)

Q And what's the advantage to that?

MRS. BUSH: Just the little boy liked it, I guess. (Laughter.) Wear fancy clothes, like slippers, he said. (Laughter.) One little girl said she just hoped he would stay alive. Me, too, that's what I'd like.

Q Well, that's a good one, that's a good one, that's a good one. Look, we're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to talk about this secret trip you took that nobody knew about and what happened and where you went. We'll be right back. More with the First Lady. (Applause.)

(Commercial break.)

Q Welcome back. We're talking with the First Lady. Okay, you took this kind of secret trip to Afghanistan. Tell us -- because nobody knew you were going.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, we kept it a secret. Actually, I went at the same time the Afghan American Women's Council was there.

Q Okay.

MRS. BUSH: American women who partner with Afghan women. And so I was able to go straight into their events. We didn't really advance the trip like we normally would a trip that I would go on. And they were going to see what I really wanted to see, which is a women's dorm that we built, the U.S. government, along with some public -- I mean, some private partners with the Afghan American Women's Council. We built a dorm that holds 800 women in Kabul at Kabul University so women have a place to come into Kabul and their families will let them come in because they'll -- they have a safe place to ! live that's not with men, obviously.

And also, we started with the Afghan American Women's Council training teachers who come in from the provinces. They can stay in the dorm, and then they go back after six months' training to their villages and try to train other teachers. They have -- it's actually a cascading effect to try to educate the country as fast as they possibly can educate it.

Q As you go through the streets, what is the -- the people on the streets, are they accepting this change? Do they seem to be resisting it?

MRS. BUSH: No, it's very, very encouraging.

Q Oh, good.

MRS. BUSH: Really encouraging -- I mean, when you saw the people of Afghanistan line up to vote. I went to visit President Karzai and he told me this story about the men and women who had gone to vote at their voting place and there was a rocket attack on the voting place. And the men all ran, and the women said, we're not going to run, we want to vote. And so then the men, of course, came back and joined them and they voted. (Laughter.) It's very encouraging.

I didn't see any women in burqas. I mean, a lot of women -- all women, of course, wore scarves, and some covered part of their face, but they didn't really have that really covered up with that -- with the burqa that's so difficult to be able to see out of.

Q And I think a lot of people here think the burqa goes back thousands of years. It only goes back to 1996. This was something that was totally made up that was imposed on these women and now it's gone. So the older people there, they know what it used to be like, so they probably encourage it, don't they?

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

Q You know, that's wonderful.

MRS. BUSH: So it was really very encouraging.

Q And you gave a radio address, as well.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I gave a radio address actually before we went into Afghanistan --

Q Okay, okay.

MRS. BUSH: -- about the plight of women under the Taliban. And I found around the United States that American women particularly stand in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan. It's hard for us to even imagine a country where girls are denied an education or where women can't even leave their homes without a -- to go to work or to do anything else without a male escort. And so I was really -- it was an honor to be able to bring the best wishes of American women to the women of Afghanistan.

Q And you also once did a paper, I heard, to your 6th grade class on Afghanistan.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

Q So this helps you fix that incomplete, now, you go back -- (laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: I did write a report on Afghanistan in the 6th grade, but of course, I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember much about what I wrote.

Q Now, why -- okay, you're in Midland, Texas, which is as far from Afghanistan as you could -- literally could be, geographically. Why Afghanistan? Why not Paris? What --

MRS. BUSH: I think actually, Afghanistan sounded -- and still does to me and to a lot of Americans -- very exotic. I've always been interested, but now, of course, more than ever. And I'm really -- I really think they are going to be able to do it. It's just taking baby steps. I mean, after their -- everything is in rubble, like the big Buddhas that the Taliban destroyed that were several thousand years old.

Q Well, I remember seeing those. That was horrible, where they blew up the --

MRS. BUSH: That was horrible.

Q Let me ask you something on a lighter note, now. The President threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game. Was he nervous? Was he practicing at the White House throwing balls against the wall?


Q Oh, really? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: When he threw out the ball at the Yankee -- at the Yankee Stadium for the World Series -- is this one his most recent one?

Q Yes, there here is there.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, good, so you saw that it was high and outside.

Q It was a little high and outside. (Laughter.) Did you criticize him for that, being high and outside?

MRS. BUSH: And to the right, too. Outside to the right.

Q Well, he's kind of to the right, so that's okay. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: What did we expect? (Applause.)

Q Now, were you worried that he might bounce it?

MRS. BUSH: I was.

Q Really?

MRS. BUSH: That's what I was going to say earlier, when he threw out the ball at the Yankees game in 2001, the World Series, he was down in the dugout, and Derek Jeter was there and he said, Derek Jeter said, "Are you going to throw from the mound?" And George said, "Well, I don't know, I might throw from that place they have in front of it." And he said, "Oh, no, you've got to throw from the mound." And so then as Derek Jeter walked off, he turned around and said, "Don't bounce it, they'll boo you." (Laughter.) That was real encouraging.

Q Well, that's a lot of pressure. That's more pressure than being President of the United States. (Laughter.)

Now, do you watch sports with him?

MRS. BUSH: Sure.

Q Okay.

MRS. BUSH: I watch a lot of baseball.

Q Oh, okay. So you -- do you enjoy it or you're just kind of going along with it?

MRS. BUSH: I love it. No, I like it. I mean, he -- I watched a lot of baseball games when he had the Texas Rangers.

Q You know, I saw something on TV the other day. Are you the jealous type?

MRS. BUSH: Well, yes, sometimes.

Q Really? Because I saw something -- now while you're here, this is something that happened in Crawford. Can we show that footage?

MRS. BUSH: And I was out of town.

(Video clip of President Bush holding the hand of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah shown.)


Q I just wondered if you'd seen that. I'd --

MRS. BUSH: I saw it on the front page of the newspaper today.

Q No, you were in shock by then. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: It was actually very sweet.

Q No, I know. I'm just -- (laughter.) You're a very understanding wife. That's a wonderful -- I know you have to go. You've got your good works to continue. And thank you so much. It is always a pleasure and an honor to have you come by, and please come by anytime. It's just wonderful. Thank you very much.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Jay.

END 5:10 P.M. PDT

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