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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 10, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Luncheon for Spouses of the Diplomatic Corps
12:05 P.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Welcome, everyone. Please be seated. I'm so happy you're here today. Distinguished guests and dear friends, welcome to the White House. I'm delighted to have this chance to host the husbands and wives of Washington's diplomatic corps.
Abigail Adams, who was the first woman to get to live in the White House -- her husband, John Adams, was our second President -- and when she lived here, the house had just almost been completed; not quite. This room didn't have windows, and this was the room she hung her laundry in to dry. (Laughter.)
But she also -- Abigail Adams also happened to be one of our earliest diplomatic wives. In 1784, she joined her husband, John Adams, at his post in Paris. Mrs. Adams worried that her Yankee tendency to say what she thought could bring her new career to a quick end. But after a few days in Paris, her own manners were the least of her concerns. Imagine her shock at seeing women embrace strange men with kisses on each cheek! (Laughter.)
Mrs. Adams' first trips to the theater caused even greater alarm. This minister's daughter "felt [her] delicacy wounded," she said, by the dancers' short petticoats, and she was ashamed to look when they leapt and exposed their garters. Abigail's fascination with the performances soon overtook her distress. Her son, the man who would become America's sixth President, was equally intrigued. As biographer James Grant writes, "perhaps to convince himself that the performances were really as lewd as they seemed to be, he attended them over and over." (Laughter.) He was the other son of a President to become President.
More than two centuries after Mrs. Adams left Paris, the challenges faced by diplomatic spouses remain. And those challenges include learning the culture and customs of another nation, conversing fluently in a foreign tongue, and many of you can sympathize with one of Abigail's chief concerns: entertaining on a strict budget, mandated by the thrifty home government.
All of you have met these challenges with grace. You've left the comforts of home, you've opened your doors to countless guests, and you long ago forgot the meaning of "business hours." Through it all, you have been tireless advocates for the nations you call home.
Thank you for teaching Americans about the countries you represent. And I'm sure you've learned a lot about the U.S., as well. Many of you have taken part in the "Experience America" trips organized by my friend and our Chief of Protocol, Nancy Brinker. These excursions have taken ambassadors and their spouses to California, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, and New York City. Travelers visited the Caltech jet propulsion lab, met the founders of Google, and rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
I might be a little biased, but I think Nancy has saved the best trip for last. (Laughter.) In January, she'll lead a tour to Houston and Dallas.
And as you all know, President Bush and I will be heading to Dallas in January, too. We'll return home with fond memories of our time with all of you, and with very, very happy memories with trips to many of your nations. Thank you for your friendship and thank you for your service. And it's a pleasure to host you today for today's lunch. So bon appétit. (Applause.)
END 12:09 P.M. EST