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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 12, 2006
Interview of First Lady Laura Bush by KWES-TV
George W. Bush Childhood Home
April 11, 2006
10:30 A.M. CDT
Q First off, welcome back home.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, it's great to be here. It's really -- I love to have the chance to come to Midland whenever I can. I come pretty often. This is actually the first time I've ever come on an official event. I usually just come into town and see my mother and go out to dinner with friends and see other friends and have a day or two here with my mother.
Q I'm sure with the monotony of the position and all, coming back here is probably a nice relief from all that's going on.
MRS. BUSH: It is.
Q Talk about the home. Have you had a chance to go through it?
MRS. BUSH: I have. I toured the home last night. The room we're in right now was the President's room when he was a little boy, and you can really see the way they've restored the house the way it really was, why President Bush and Barbara would have bought it back in 1951, when they bought it then. They had George and a little girl, Robin, who died of leukemia while they lived here in this house. And you can see why they would have picked this cute house with these really cute rooms, like this one, that are perfect for a little boy.
Then while they lived here, Jeb Bush was born, governor of Florida now. So the house was the home of a President and two governors and another President, so that it's really a very cute house. They've done a great job of restoring it. They're interpreting it as a 1950s house, and that's what it is. And it really tells the story of what Midland was like in the 1950s, what the whole Permian Basin in West Texas was like when a lot of people moved from around the country to work in the oil business, like President Bush -- Number 41, as we call him -- did.
Q Now, have you talked to them about coming back -- I'm sure they must be thrilled to think of all the hard work that went into getting this ready.
MRS. BUSH: I think they're very, very happy about it. Of course, they'll be here a little bit later today. I'll have the chance to see them. And I hope I have the chance to walk into the house with them, because I really want to see their reaction. It's very different from what it looked like when I first saw it, when the group that put this whole idea of the house museum together acquired it from the Midland Realtors. None of this was here, of course. The paneling was covered up, it was painted. All the cute little bookshelves and everything that made it such a nice little boy's room were gone. Although, when they stripped it they could see the outline of where these built-ins were, so they were able to restore them exactly like they were.
And then when they went down on the wallpapers, they found at the bottom the wallpaper that would have been here when Barbara Bush cooked in that kitchen, the kitchen wallpaper. So they were able to restore it as -- replace it, actually, with a period wallpaper from the '50s.
And the people who worked on it, who do this as a job, really, really looked so that every toy, for instance, in these shelves, is really a toy from 1951 to '54./
Q Remarkable work.
MRS. BUSH: Dealey Herndon, who worked on it, told me she found old toys she thought would be perfect. And the curator said, "No, no, that's two years too late." (Laughter.)
Q Isn't that something? And they were doing this all by photos, too.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, they were doing it all by photos. They had the old catalog that the light fixtures were ordered from. They haven't found a 1951 Sears and Roebuck catalog, which they were sorry -- they know that might have been in the house then. I remember when I lived here in Midland in those ages, that's how I picked what I wanted for Christmas. I would pore over the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Q I think everybody did.
MRS. BUSH: Exactly, circled things that I thought -- circled dolls, mainly, because that's what I liked.
Q I did notice a Sports Illustrated from 1956, so they did do pretty good detail. You mentioned this is your first official visit, and you've been getting out, I think, a lot more in this second term than perhaps you did the first. Why do you feel like that's important that you get out more?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I actually traveled a whole lot in the first term, I just didn't make an official visit to Midland. My visits were all private visits, of course. But I have traveled a lot overseas in the second term -- although, I did that in the first term, as well.
I had the opportunity to go the inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman President on the African continent, and the new elected President of Liberia. Liberia is a country that was founded by freed slaves from the United States, so they've always had a very close relationship with the United States. And Liberia went through a very long and brutal civil war. And the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a really very important turning point for Liberia. So the President thought it was important for the United States to be represented by the Secretary of State, Condi Rice, and by me, to show our strong support of Liberia.
The United States is one of the few countries that kept an ambassador there through the whole civil war time, because we wanted so badly for Liberia to be able to settle that and to be able to go back to the democracy that they've known in other times. So that was really fun, to be able to represent the United States there, at her inauguration.
I also got to lead the delegation to the Olympics in Turin, and that was really fun. We had a wonderful delegation of former American Olympians, Winter Olympians, including -- and a lot of people probably don't know this -- that famous Olympian, Herschel Walker. We all remember him as a Dallas Cowboy, but he was actually a bobsledder in the Winter Olympics. So that was fun.
Q You've also seen in New Orleans, saw Katrina --
MRS. BUSH: That's right. I was there yesterday, in New Orleans. On the way here I stopped and did two events -- an event with Secretary Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor, with the National Urban League, that's money -- federal funding from the Labor Department to train people. This is specifically for young people, age 18 to 24, for the new jobs. And right now the whole Gulf Coast area has a lot of jobs available. We were with a person from the hotel industry and his company alone in New Orleans has 300 jobs, because people have moved away and they've lost a lot of their employees. So I did an event with her.
And then I met for lunch, for a working lunch with all of the state school superintendents, the state school chief officials from Texas to Florida -- Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- to talk about the Laura Bush Foundation, which is a foundation for school libraries, but also to talk about what we can do as the federal government, and then all different foundations and community groups to help them as they rebuild the school districts that were decimated. And, really, no school -- state school superintendent has ever been faced with what each of these school superintendents are faced with -- the whole idea of building whole school districts from the ground up in these cities that were decimated.
And then, of course, in Florida and Texas, where we didn't suffer that much damage from the hurricane, but we've taken on many, many students who have been displaced. And a lot of school districts -- particularly Houston and Dallas -- the school districts have grown by a huge number of students. So we need to figure out what we can do to help those school districts as well. Houston opened two schools that they had closed in neighborhoods because of declining enrollment, and they were able to open those. So they have two extra schools running to make up for all the extra students.
Q Those kids who came over. Education, obviously, is still important and I know the city of Midland is still pushing for a literacy center for you. That's got to make you feel good, I think, that they're still going after that.
MRS. BUSH: It does. It does. You know, while George has been President -- and I haven't had a chance to go back, but my elementary school, which I went to the very first year it opened when I was in the 3rd grade, James Bowie, celebrated their 50th anniversary. And it's so amazing for me because I remember this very contemporary, modern building when I started to school there, a new building. And now it's 50 years old.
And George, of course, went to Sam Houston Elementary, he started the 1st grade here at Sam Houston, very close to this house. And then went to one year at St. Jacinto Junior High, and that was the only year we were in the same school, for the 7th grade. And then the Bushes moved to Houston when he was in the 8th grade.
But we have a lot of, of course, the same friends. One of his best friends, who I think is going to be here today, grew up right behind this house. And he ended up being one of my best friends in junior high and high school, and I think he's going to be coming in from Corpus Christi today for this event.
Q Good. There will be a lot of people that you guys, I'm sure know.
MRS. BUSH: Sure, that's right. And, of course, we lived here as adults, as well. George moved back in 1975, and I moved here in 1977, when we married. Our babies were born while we lived in Midland. And we lived here for about 10 years, until we moved to Washington to work on Mr. Bush's 1988 campaign.
And so we have many, many friends from our childhood here. Susie Evans, Secretary of Commerce, former Secretary of Commerce, Don Evans' wife, was in 1st grade with me and the 2nd grade with George, and is still one of our best friends. Jan and Joey O'Neill, who will be here for the dedication. Joey will be introducing me, and, in fact, Joey made another introduction for me, for my life, when he introduced me to George at that backyard barbeque in 1977.
So Midland means the world to us. I know everyone out here knows that. This is the stop we made on our way to Washington, before George's inauguration as President, on January 17th, 2001. It was the last stop before we flew to Washington, because it's really our beginning for both of us, of values we have we got from growing up in West Texas.
Q It was cold and miserable and --
MRS. BUSH: It was very, very cold that day, but it was a very moving day for us to be there with so many of our good friends. And I know a lot of our good friends will be here today, as well.
Q Good. I don't know how much time we have, but let me -- I want to ask you about your husband and this term. It's been a lot tougher, I think, than, perhaps, that first one and what he's going through. And how much do you guys talk about that? And how much has it really taken a toll on you?
MRS. BUSH: Well, both terms have been very tough. Our country has faced challenges during his presidency, but no one expected -- we certainly didn't expect the terrorist attack on September 11th. We didn't expect to be in a war against terror. But that's what happens. When you run for this job you know to expect the unexpected.
And the good news is the President has the strength and the character to deal with very, very difficult situations. And the other really great news is so do the American people. The American people are so strong and we see that every day. We see it when we're with our troops, which is quite often. And we see it when we travel around our country.
These are tough times, but I know that they'll pass, and also that we'll be successful, that we will be able to help Iraq and Afghanistan build democracies; and that we'll get the peace that we want for our children and our grandchildren. And I'm so proud of my husband. I'm proud of the job that he does. I'm proud that he's strong enough to face all the tough times and the criticism that he does.
And I'm also very, very thankful for all the people out here who write us letters and tell us they're praying for us and send us their very best wishes, and I want to thank them for that.
Q Thank you so much.