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

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 9, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Interview by American Urban Radio Networks
September 8, 2005
Aboard Mrs. Bush's Plane
En Route Washington, D.C.

4:01 P.M. CDT

Q It's been a very emotionally draining day. Your Education Secretary, I witnessed her stand with someone formerly of her Department, one of the evacuees, one of the victims, and it was a very tearful -- it was a very tearful time. What are your thoughts of the day? I mean, I witnessed you hold a baby that was born while parents were in the shelters. What were your thoughts of what you witnessed?

MRS. BUSH: Well, you're right, it is a very emotionally draining day. But there were also a lot of uplifting moments. What we saw at both of the stops, in Des Moines first, with kids who put together their -- raised $100 and put together a box for me to bring to the school that I was going to next in DeSoto County, Mississippi, written on the outside of the box, "with love, from Lovejoy school in Iowa." I think what we really see is how Americans are trying to reach out in whatever way to people who have been displaced because of the hurricane.

And then, when we got to Mississippi and we saw the schools that had taken in children whose parents are there in the shelter, we met a lot of those parents when we visited the shelter. And once again, that was, in many ways, uplifting. Those people feel very welcomed. The children feel welcomed in the schools, the people who are in the shelter feel welcomed and really surrounded by the community with love.

And I think that's the best part of our country, and the good part, if there could be anything good out of what happened in the terrible hurricane.

Q Today I witnessed you pushed two issues -- the issue of many of the displaced families to put their children in schools. One, why is that important? And then, two, I also saw you when you met with the families. It was so touching to see the little girl say, "What's your name?" And you said, "Laura, Laura Bush." And her father was like, that's the First Lady. I mean, it was so touching, and the human side of it.

But those children, you enveloped them like you were hugging your own children. I've never seen you hug your own, but it looked so caring and so touching. I can't help but think back to 9/11 when you told everyone to talk to their children about what happened. You also encouraged people to seek help, as far as the mental issue. This devastation is not the same catastrophe, but it is a great catastrophe, as 9/11 was. Are you encouraging some sort of mental help for these children, as well?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, and that's why I think it's really important to get children into schools for all these families that are displaced. Children need the routine of a regular life. And also, we don't want them to get so far behind in their studies. It's important for them to keep up with their studies.

But the routine of going to school, just like the routine of going to work for parents, is very important toward trying to establish some sort of equilibrium in your life after such a devastation as these people have suffered.

We saw a lot of parents here who said they wanted to go to work. They wanted to go to work where they were, in the town they're living in now. That doesn't mean they don't want to go home. A lot of them said, I really want to go home. But they want to go ahead and get a job.

We met a policewoman from New Orleans who is now working for the county, for DeSoto County there in security. And that was an exciting and wonderful story to see the job that she has now.

A number of people who had been in these shelters have now relocated to an apartment in the community or other places to live, other than the shelters, that have been found for them. And each one of those steps, the step of going back to school or the step of going back to work if you're an adult, help you as you try to really regain your composure and regain your equilibrium.

But you're right. Just like after September 11th, a lot of children watched images on TV that we would really rather they didn't see. I mean, we'd really rather they didn't see people on their roofs screaming for help, or snipers or looters. I mean, these are all things that we don't want our children to see, because as you know, on television, they show them over and over and over and over, the same thing over and over.

Because of that, I think once again, just like after September 11th, parents need to talk to their children. It's a good time for parents to talk about what they would do, put together the items that you would need in case there was any sort of natural disaster in their hometowns so in case they had to get on the highway and drive and evacuate to some other place, to be prepared for it, to talk about -- to be concrete and be constructive in a way to alleviate fears of children and to actually do something in case it ever happened to you.

Q What are your thoughts about the fact that a lot of displaced families and displaced children -- how does this play into the initiative that you already had for at-risk youth?

MRS. BUSH: Well, that -- we are still having our White House conference on Helping America's Youth. In many ways, it's very much the same thing. A lot of the things that people who help gang members talk to me about is how important it is to employ people, that if people are employed, they're much less likely to join a gang, or they're more likely to leave a gang if they're employed.

And we see that -- not that people are about to join a gang, I don't mean that -- but we see here that men and women want to go back to work, they want to be constructive. I think it's just in the nature of humans to want to be constructive and want to work. And that's one thing we see.

And then, of course, the bad images that we saw from young people looting stores or whatever, I mean, all of these are things that we want to address in Helping America's Youth. A lot of that was understandable, certainly, if you needed water or you were hungry. But on the other hand, to steal a television when you don't even have electricity, that seems not that sensible, to say the least.

Q So do you think your husband actually understood -- he was saying zero tolerance. But so many people were saying -- and if it were myself, if it were me, I would be surviving.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think they were saying zero tolerance about the people who were shooting at helicopters and shooting at rescue workers and threatening rescue workers. And I think that's terrible. And I'm sure that's when they meant when they talked about zero tolerance.

Q Unfortunately, Mrs. Bush, we are now in a situation where people are looking at class, people are looking at race. You have Kanye West -- I don't know if you know who he is, but I'm quite sure your daughters know who he is -- Kanye West doing a national televised event for hurricane relief, make comments about race and then come back and say something to the effect, President Bush does not care about black people.

Now you have Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic National Committee, saying that class and race really were the catalyst as to who lived and who died. What does that say to you? And as I'm asking that question, remembering what you said really happened, you were sticking to the (inaudible) in Mississippi -- what really happened, and does race and class play at all in this?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think all of those remarks were disgusting, to be perfectly frank, because of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country. And I know that. I mean, I'm the person who lives with him, I know what he's like, and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people.

I do think, and we all saw this, was that poor people were more vulnerable. They lived in poorer neighborhoods, their neighborhoods were the ones that were more likely to flood, as we saw in New Orleans. Their housing was more vulnerable. And that's what we saw and that's what we want to address in our country.

And I think it was a wake-up call to a lot of people that that's something that we need to address. We need to address the effects of poverty, and that's something that all of us saw.

Q And just this, I want to get this in real quick, unfortunately, Chief Justice Rehnquist has died. President Bush has re-nominated John Roberts. Are you going to get your woman -- (laughter) -- are you going to get your woman in Sandra Day O'Connor's seat, and will she be a hardliner or a moderate?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I don't know about any of that. I think the President's going to wait until John Roberts is confirmed before he nominates the next person. Of course, as a woman myself, I hope it will be a woman.

Q Thank you so much, Mrs. Bush.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much.

END 4:11 P.M. CDT

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