Miller Center

Laura Bush - First Lady

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Laura Welch Bush was reluctant to subject her family to the rigors, criticism, and press intrusion of a presidential campaign. Nevertheless, she supported her husband, Texas governor George W. Bush, in his bid for the presidency, giving speeches, granting interviews, and traveling the country, sometimes on her own.

As the nation's First Lady, she sees Lady Bird Johnson and mother-in-law Barbara Bush as important role models. Like Barbara Bush, her special cause is the promotion of reading and literacy, a mission she took on as first lady of Texas. A former librarian, Laura established the First Lady's Family Literacy Project for Texas, sanctioning literacy programs administered by the University of Texas at Austin, and supporting a "Ready to Read" project at the preschool level. As First Lady of the United States, Laura built on her former achievements and launched her "Ready to Read, Ready to Learn" initiative that encourages reading among children and their adult companions. In announcing her project, she stated that she would "work tirelessly to make sure that every child gains the basic skills to be successful in school and in life."In an effort to achieve this goal, Laura Bush has focused attention on issues associated with literacy. She has urged more Americans to become teachers, and she established the first National Book Festival, expanding upon a program she had initiated as first lady of Texas. But reading is not the only issue Laura Bush has addressed. In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the First Lady spoke of the need for healing among Americans, encouraging families to spend more time together. She has also increased awareness about the conditions Afghan women and children endured under the oppressive Taliban regime. In addition, she has focused attention on the arts, adoption, and breast cancer awareness, and promoted services which aid abused and neglected children.

Laura Bush realizes that as First Lady, she has a unique "forum" and that "the time is now." But for the nonpolitical Laura Bush, it is "time" to promote awareness only of social causes. While the First Lady is a political partner of the President, makes speeches, and has political views -- remarking at one point that she did not believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned -- Laura Welch Bush is less activist than some of her predecessors in the realm of presidential decision-making.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Gary L. Gregg II 

Professor Gregg is the director of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. He also holds the Mitch McConnell Chair in leadership. His writings include: 

Considering the Bush Presidency. (with Mark J. Rozell, Oxford University Press, 2004)

Thinking about the Presidency: Documents and Essays from the Founding to the Present. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)

Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College (2nd ed.). (ISI Books, 2008)

America's Forgotten Founders (2nd ed.). (with Mark D. Hall, ISI Books, 2012)

The consulting editor wishes to thank Connor Tracy and Travis Wilson for serving as research assistants on this project.