For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 25, 2004
Remarks by First Lady Laura Bush at the Alzheimer's Association Gala as Delivered
March 24, 2004
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, George, for your very warm welcome, and thank you all for being here and raising all this money that is going to
such a great cause. And thanks to Trish Vradenburg, Paul and Terry for
your dedication to families affected by Alzheimer's disease. America is
grateful to the Alzheimer's Association for leading the charge in research
and treatment. And I'm delighted to be here with Mrs. Carter and
Senator Clinton to celebrate the first gala in our nation's capital. There
is no better way to celebrate this milestone than by saluting the
dedicated caregivers and volunteers who make a difference in so many lives.
I know how hard it is to lose someone to Alzheimer's disease. I
lost my father seven years ago, so this subject is never far from my
heart. My parents were members of the great generation honored here tonight. They met and married in El Paso, Texas, and later moved to Midland when my dad returned home at the end of World War II. I was born and raised in
Midland where my father built homes, and mother helped with the books. My hometown was an ideal place to grow up, and for George and me, the perfect place to raise our own family. We were able to share the first years of our babies' lives with family and close friends. My dad would come over every
afternoon after I put the girls down for a nap. He would walk in the front
door and yell, "Laura, are the babies asleep yet?" Of course, they would hop
right up and yell for him.
I'm happy that my girls were able to spend so much time with my
parents - and to learn and laugh with them. We often tell stories
about my dad and relive those great memories from their childhood.
It's important to me that they remember their grandfather for the funny, caring, strong man that he was - the man before
Alzheimer's. My father was eighty when he was diagnosed with this disease. This was
a difficult time for my family, especially for my mother, who saw her
husband slipping away bit by bit every day. In many ways we were blessed.
Since my parents lived in Midland for five decades, they had fifty years
worth of friends who offered support.
My mother was able to care for my father at home and she had
caretakers to help. But she was still the one who bore the greatest
responsibility for his care. I remember her reading to my father.
stories by Texas writer Elmer Kelton. Those hours spent reading
prairies and cowboys provided a welcome respite for them both. It's
difficult for caregivers to cope with the symptoms and the
associated with this tragic disease, and the constant care is
and emotionally draining. Most of all, the heart wrenching sadness
slow, disappearance of a loved one can be unbearable. Caregivers
strong network of people who can provide advice and assistance.
And many of you have devoted years of your life and your profession
to this cause. Because of you, countless Americans are living
We are making progress against this disease every day. A new
drugs are under review, and more are in development. And caregivers
receiving greater training and support. For many of you, taking
care of a
loved one is not a choice, but part of your character. You are
husbands, and children who love someone with an illness. But to so
you are heroes. Loving someone with all your heart is human. Never
giving up is heroic.
My father's favorite Elmer Kelton books are about every day heroes
and their tales of perseverance. Kelton once said, "I can't write
about heroes seven feet tall and invincible. I write about people five
foot eight and nervous." Each of you shows the world that you don't need to
be seven feet tall to make a difference. True heroes are ordinary people
with extraordinary will and strength. Together we can make a difference
in the lives of those with Alzheimer's and in the lives of those who love