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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 3, 2006
Interview of the First Lady by Good Morning America, ABC
New Orleans, Louisiana
7:35 A.M. CDT
Q It is good to have you here. And Mrs. Bush, I was --
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Charlie.
Q I was stunned by the numbers. I just mentioned 1,100 schools damaged, washed away. That is an enormous number of books.
MRS. BUSH: It's enormous. It's also an enormous number of schools. It's unprecedented, really, for school district superintendents and state school officers to have to rebuild this many school districts. So they -- we all know they need a lot of help from everybody, every way they can, and I'm really happy that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries is making grants to ten schools today -- seven in Louisiana and three in Mississippi. These are schools that are rebuilt and they're ready to restock their libraries. And to stock a school library is not inexpensive. A good elementary school library, basic collection, costs about $50,000, and a good high school collection costs about $100,000. So they will be getting --
Q Yes, I'm sort of a --
MRS. BUSH: Go ahead.
Q -- freak for numbers, and when I saw those numbers in the White House material, just multiplying by the number of schools, if you just take that basic $50,000 figure, if you assume that every school is an elementary school, $50,000 to restock a library, and 1,100 schools, that's $56 million worth of books. And that's just an enormous amount to do.
MRS. BUSH: It's a huge amount, it really is. Not, of course, all of these schools, the 1,100 that were damaged are destroyed. Some were only -- had a little bit of damage. A lot of libraries were not totally destroyed, but some were. And today, we'll be at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish. That's a very heroic story. Their great superintendent, Doris Voitier, determined that she was going to rebuild their high school so kids could come back. It had been flooded totally on the first floor, but when the flood waters went down, she started the restoration, and she opened the school on November 14th, expecting about 50 or 100 kids. And instead, now she has 600. So she will open an elementary school this fall, so both the elementary school and Chalmette High School will be receiving grants to restock their library.
Q It's interesting you mentioned Chalmette. That's, as you mentioned, in St. Bernard Parish. And this is a school that actually, as you mentioned, put itself back together. If they had waited, frankly, for federal help, it would have been months later. They did it on their own.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, she did it on her own. She's a go-getter, and she just started rebuilding, and then she billed FEMA. (Laughter.)
Q She's going to bill FEMA later, is that what she's going to do?
MRS. BUSH: She did bill FEMA, that's right.
Q Well, this is a very worthy effort, and I know there are many more schools to be done, and I suspect your foundation is going to be very active in doing them. And this is certainly worthy, as I say, and to be congratulated for doing that.
This is a little impertinent to ask, but I just want to make sure, is it actually Laura Bush I'm talking to, or are you an impersonator?
MRS. BUSH: It's really me. That was funny.
Q It was very --
MRS. BUSH: It was very funny.
Q I just want to play a little clip, because we had Steve Bridges on yesterday, who is the fellow who impersonates your husband.
MRS. BUSH: Oh, you did? Great.
Q And he was very nervous about the one line that everybody is talking about.
(Video clip is played.)
Q Steve said he wasn't at all sure he was going to be able to do that line. Did you know it was coming?
MRS. BUSH: No, I didn't know it was coming. I really hadn't seen the whole script. I knew, of course, that George had Steve coming to be his alter-ego, but it was very funny.
Q Well, Steve said that the President had passed on the line, and he said, if it was okay with him, then I guess it was going to be okay with Mrs. Bush. (Laughter.) Anyway, congratulations to you, the foundation doing good work.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much.
Q This is very important, not only books in the -- by the way, you're a former librarian, do you have some favorite books that you would put in libraries?
MRS. BUSH: Well, in children's libraries, of course I put in my sentimental favorites, like Little Women, which my mother read to me before I could read; Dr. Seuss books, like Hop on Pop, which was one of George's favorites to read to the girls, and they took it literally and jumped on him while he read that; of course Good Night Moon, that we read to them as babies. But what we want for these libraries is a big, full collection of fiction and very good, up-to-date non-fiction to support the curriculum of these schools.
Q Absolutely. All right, Mrs. Bush. Thanks very much. By the way, were the twins good in finding the mouse in Good Night Moon?
MRS. BUSH: Yes, they could always find him. That was fun.
Q There's the mouse, there's the mouse. Every night I read that to my daughters, as well. All right, Mrs. Bush.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much, Charlie.
Q Thank you, very much. Good to have you with us.
MRS. BUSH: Bye-bye.
END 7:39 A.M. CDT