Former First Lady Laura Bush will have an extensive travel schedule in May and June as she promotes her new memoir, “Spoken From The Heart.” The book is being published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and they will also release her husband’s memoir this fall. Mrs. Bush received a $1.6 million advance which is well below the $8 million which went to Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Bush has rarely talked about herself, and since leaving the White House the former first couple has not made any derogatory comments about President Obama. Mrs. Bush now says the rhetoric from the current White House annoys and angers her. Readers will learn the then 32 year old Laura Welch was a liberal Democrat when she met George Bush in 1977 and agreed to marry him three months later. She changed her party registration and devoted most of her time to his losing 1978 Congressional campaign.
She had misgivings about his running for governor of Texas in 1994. She reluctantly agreed to endure the campaign as long as she did not have to give a political speech. She soon reversed that position, and Mrs. Bush would later address two Republican National Conventions. Some highlights of her career include:
- As First Lady of Texas she took the unusual step of personally lobbying for an allocation of $215 million for reading programs among children and adults. The legislation was passed and is still known as “Laura Bush’s Bill.”
- While Mrs. Bush is best known for her literacy programs, she also took an active interest in foreign policy and humanitarian relief efforts. The Bush administration doubled foreign aid in eight years. The growth rate was unprecedented and the only President who could match this record is Harry Truman’s Marshall Plan.
The Bush White House revolutionized foreign aid with the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This $6.7 billion public-private partnership for the first time tied aid to accountability based on a country’s governing well, fighting corruption and commitment to economic freedoms.
- After the September 11, 2001 attack, Mrs. Bush became an outspoken supporter of the women of Afghanistan. In November of that year, she became the only First Lady to give the President’s weekly radio address, speaking out against the Taliban’s oppression of women and children. She traveled to Afghanistan three times and served as chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Under the Taliban, girls were forbidden to go to school, and they had to endure severe cruelty.
- In 2006, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Malaria, which helped raise awareness of efforts to eradicate the disease. The Bush administration’s five-year, $1.2 billion campaign to combat malaria, provided 4 million insecticide-treated bed nets and 7 million life-saving drug therapies to vulnerable people. The World Health Organization now credits the Bush administration with saving over 10 million lives because of the anti-malaria campaign.
- She visited Africa five times, and total US government development aid to the continent quadrupled from $1.3 billion in 2001 to more than $5 billion in 2008.
- Mrs. Bush made over 60 speeches to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and the Bush administration spent over $15 billion on the global AIDS battle. George W. Bush had a low approval rating at home, but it was sky high in Israel and Africa. The number of Africans being treated with life-saving antiretroviral drugs went from 50,000 to 2.1 million.
- She gave a high priority to the struggle for women’s equality. While visiting Amman, Jordan, she called for women to have “the right to speak, vote and worship freely,” and she repeated this basic message in travels to 76 countries.
- Mrs. Bush traveled to the Thai-Burma border to meet with the thousands of refugees who fled the abuses of Burma’s military regime. She continued to focus global attention on the ruling junta’s oppression and organized a 2006 roundtable at the United Nations. She returned to Burma in mid-2007 and spoke out in support of the pro-democracy movement, and urged Burmese soldiers and militias to refrain from violence.
In May of 2008 she once again strongly denounced the regime when they inexplicably denied aid to their own people in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. She was successful in finally getting them to accept international assistance.
- Laura Bush’s current job approval rating is among the most positive Gallup has recorded for a former First Lady. A 2010 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 82% of Americans approving and just 13% disapproving of the job Laura Bush did as First Lady.
- Laura Bush has not abandoned her interests since leaving the White House. She continues to work on projects related to Afghanistan and Burma. She strongly encouraged her daughter Barbara to leave her job and to become president of the new Global Health Corps which deploys college grads to staff medical clinics around the world. Barbara had earlier worked in Africa with UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Program.
- “Spoken From the Heart” will also reveal inside struggles within the Bush family. The former President says it was his wife who made him stop drinking in1986, and he also credits her with having a stabilizing effect on his private life. According to People magazine reporter Jane Simms Podesta, “She is the steel in his back. She is a civilizing influence on him. I think she built him, in many ways, into the person he is today.”
- When asked about her legacy, Mrs. Bush said, “I hope people will remember me for being an open and caring person but also for standing with women around the world, women’s rights, democracy building and on what every mother wants, which is a good education for her children. Maybe if I have a regret, it’s just that I didn’t do more.”