For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 9, 2004
Remarks by First Lady Laura Bush at Media Availability Following G8 Spouses Roundtable
Sea Island, Georgia
2:47 P.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Good afternoon to everyone and thank you all for coming
out today. We just had a really wonderful day-and-a-half together, the
spouses of the leaders of the G8. We have Cherie Blair here, Madame
Chirac, and Ludmilla Putin are joining us today. Sheila Martin is also
here on Sea Island, but she is not with us right now.
We had a wonderful meeting earlier. Each of us wanted to have the
opportunity to expand upon the projects that our husbands are working
on, their agenda for the broader Mid East. So we had today a woman
from the Iraqi Governing Council, a woman from the Afghan Governing
Council, an Iraqi Fulbright scholar and an American woman who started a
scholarship program for Afghan women at American universities.
We had a very informal roundtable, where everyone could tell their
stories and we could hear what their experiences are. And it was
really very moving to hear what each one of these women's goals are for
their country. A couple of them are over here with me.
One of them said -- and this happens to be the Fulbright scholar
who's with us. She said, you know, when people think about Iraq, they
don't think of the right thing. They're not thinking of 25 million
people with hopes, with each one with their own hope for the future.
And I think that's a good way for us to think about both Iraq and
Our conversation focused on how we can help achieve the goals that
our husbands are also working on for equality, for justice, for
democracy. And we talked with these women about each of these issues.
Already, each of us are working in our own countries or in
Afghanistan or Iraq or other parts of the broader Middle East and North
Africa on issues that are important to us. Cherie Blair has met with
judges and -- female judges and barristers in some of the Arab
countries. Madame Chirac has started a hospital in Kabul, a women's
and children's hospital in Kabul. All of you know how I've worked for
years for literacy and have continued to work for education for the
children and the women of Afghanistan in Iraq.
We've had a really great time with each other. We feel like we're
always all in the same club. Our husbands are elected leaders of very
prosperous countries and we feel a very sincere responsibility to help
other countries because of the many advantages we have from being
citizens of the countries that we're citizens of.
So I'll be glad to take any of your questions now. Any questions?
What about one from Dallas?
Q If I could, Mrs. Bush, it's been a rather historic --
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q -- the passing of President Reagan as well as the summit
and all. And I understand both the President and his father will be
delivering eulogies on Friday. Do you know, have they talked about
what they might say, shared reminiscences or anything like that?
MRS. BUSH: I don't think they have talked to each other. I don't
think they've had a chance because the President is busy here. He
talked to his dad as soon as we got here, before the other world
leaders got here. But I don't think they really discussed what they
were going to talk about at the eulogy.
But all of us, certainly each one of us have thought about Nancy
Reagan all this week, and about her devotion to her husband and her
stalwart support of him always, and certainly through these last very,
very difficult years. And I know how difficult being a caretaker of an
Alzheimer's victim is, and I know how very difficult it was for her.
And I know that I can speak for all of us when we send her our love and
our very best wishes.
I thought maybe you were going to ask about -- since you're from
Dallas -- about the Sister City project that we are announcing today.
Dallas is going to be a sister city with Kirkuk in Iraq, and they've
already agreed to that. Tucson and Sulaymaniyah are going to be sister
cities and Denver and Baghdad are going to be sister cities.*
*corrected by the White House
This is an old program that many of you know about that write from
cities around the United States. The sister city program that is a way
for two cities to work together for economic development, for
friendship, to have pen pals with each other, to try to have mutual
understanding. So I'm really proud today to announce that these three
American cities have joined with three cities in Iraq to be sister
Any other questions?
Q Mrs. Bush, I know that this is the first time in several
years that the G8 has had a spouses program.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q What prompted you to bring that back?
MRS. BUSH: Well, one of the things that prompted me -- and I'm so
sorry, it's raining as I say this -- but one of the things that
prompted me to invite them is I am so proud of Sea Island, Georgia, and
how beautiful it is. I knew they would really think it was lovely and
that it would be a good opportunity and the perfect setting for us to
be together and to talk together in a spirit of fellowship and
friendship. And also to invite the people we invited, to talk with
them so we can figure out ways that we can help, by work in our own
countries or by assisting them in their countries.
Q What are some of those ways that you talked about that you
A Well, Paula Nirschel, who's here, right here, happens to be
the wife of a university president, Roger Williams University, and she
has a great story.
In January of 2002, when she was watching television and seeing the
story of the women in the burkas in Afghanistan, she worried so much
about them and thought so much about them and in the middle of the
night one night, she thought, I can do something; my husband is the
president of the university, I can get a scholarship for an Afghan
woman here at his university; I have this whole network of university
presidents all over the United States that I can write to. So she
And now 11 Afghan women are studying in different universities in
the United States, because one woman thought she could help and figured
out a way to do it. These women are on scholarships. Paula raises
money so they can have extra money, incidental money to do whatever
they need to with to supplement their scholarships. The United States
government pays for the flights.
She had to work a long and very hard time with the State Department
to make sure these women could get visas to get into the United
States. And she chose women. The women who have come are committed to
their country, they're committed to Afghanistan. They're all at home
right now, they go home in the summer and have summer jobs. And when
they graduate, they're committed to move back home and help with the
reconstruction of their country.
And then maybe you don't know but last year we opened up the
Fulbright scholarships, the United States Fulbright scholarships to 25
Iraqi students. We hadn't had Fulbrights with Iraq for -- since 1989.
And now we have 25 Iraqi students studying in the United States on
Fulbright scholarships. And the real goal of the Fulbright
scholarships, as many of you may know, is it is an exchange, and so we
look forward to the day that American students are studying in Iraq and
we can have that true dialogue that comes when we have that sort of
exchange of students.
Q Do you still hope to visit Afghanistan this year?
MRS. BUSH: I do hope to. I don't know if I'm going to be able to
go this summer.
Q Mrs. Blair is the first wife of a Prime Minister to have a
full-time job. And we always say in America maybe our First Lady could
have a full-time job. Now that you've been in this job for a while, is
that a reality? Could that be a reality? Or is being First Lady a
full-time job in America?
MRS. BUSH: I think being First Lady is whatever the First Lady
wants it to be. It can be a full-time job or, certainly, you could
have another job outside of this. There is a true forum for the First
Lady of the United States in our country, which is a huge opportunity
for me, and I feel like a responsibility of mine, to talk about issues
that are important to me while I have this forum.
But I think it could be however a First Lady -- or maybe I should
say First Gentleman -- wanted it, either with a job outside this job or
to make this into a full-time job. I'm glad I've had the opportunity
to make it into a full-time job.
Thanks, everybody. Thank you all very much.
And thank you all for joining me.
END 2:57 P.M. EDT