"All of us now in America have a chance to show our resilience and our courage." Shortly after 9/11, Laura Bush spoke those calming and uplifting words during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Mrs. Bush had visited three military personnel hospitalized for injuries received at the Pentagon. "An opportunity has opened to do what we can for our fellow Americans," she added, "to think how we can help each other and to reassure our young children. Let them know they are safe and are loved." Heartfelt expressions such as these epitomize Laura Bush in my mind. From the first day she assumed her position as First Lady of the United States of America, she did so with uncommon humility and genuineness. Mrs. Bush brought back dignity and grace to the White House. Like her mother-in-law, she did not seek to be "co-President". She understood her role to be a supporter of her husband, and while it has been reported that she frequently has advised the President and offered opinion, she has done so in that quiet, thoughtful manner that we have come to know.
Laura Bush, like her husband, has been maligned by the MSM on many occasions. I would submit the ridicule and insult have often bordered on abuse. This woman of great courage and personal strength has not failed to maintain her composure even in the face of the most vicious accusations directed toward her family. When the Bush's moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the country had just witnessed the devastating outcome of a First Family embroiled in personal problems, and specifically, a First Marriage that was in tatters. The Clinton's, Johnson's, and Kennedy's were all First Couples that apparently had underlying marital problems that may or may not have impacted decisions coming from the Oval Office. Whatever problems faced George W. Bush as President, the world has knew his wife stood beside him, supported him, protected her family and their privacy, and she never wavered in her love and support of her country.
During the '04 campaign, I heard a panel on CNN talking about the possibility of a Kerry White House. The pundits were giddy in anticipation of having Teresa Heinz Kerry take over. They were confident that there would be no more early bedtimes for the president and his wife. Instead, the Kerry's would entertain frequently and lavishly, inviting media and socialites to share in the grandeur. It was very disturbing to hear this group insult Mrs. Bush's entertaining style and frequency. At a time of war and unrest on many fronts, I believe the Bush's held true to their convictions that their family should be respectful of sobering events of the day, and that it was their duty to maintain a more simple and less flamboyant lifestyle than perhaps prior administrations had undertaken. In spite of media criticism, the Bush's never compromised their true sense of self or their personal preferences.
Mrs. Bush has accomplished much as First Lady, but in keeping with her personality and desire to deter attention away from herself, her work has often gone unrecognized. She isn't the type that the women on The View love to entertain. She doesn't participate in petty gossip; she does not show disrespect to former presidents or criticize policies they may have initiated. An example of her true character and belief there is good in everyone was on display during this campaign. When asked her opinion regarding Michelle Obama's comment about being proud of America for the first time in her adult life, Mrs. Bush extended a verbal hand of friendship and understanding. Always the kind ambassador, she responded that Mrs. Obama likely meant instead that now she is more proud of her country. Mrs. Bush graciously helped to cover a potentially damaging statement, something the press would never have done for her.
I will miss Laura Bush every year at Christmas time. Each year, I've enjoyed the HGTV White House Christmas décor' program that featured Mrs. Bush walking viewers through the steps involved in decorating America's House each year. This year was especially poignant because Mrs. Bush chose the Christmas decorating theme of America and red, white and blue. A true American patriot, Mrs. Bush could not have selected a more appropriate way to end her career as First Lady.
As hope and change move the country forward in 2009, and a new family occupies the living quarters of this great home, one thing remains certain for me. Laura Bush has left her mark on this country, the world and the White House in so many significant and important ways. I will miss her pleasant, engaging smile, her dedication to this country, her concern and love for children and her commitment to her husband and her family. The next First Lady comes onto the scene touted as being the next Jackie Kennedy and someone of great fashion sense and style, not to mention being blessed with shapely bare arms. I wish Mrs. Obama well and at a time in our country's history when we most assuredly need a seamless transfer of strong leadership and vision, we also need the reassurance that the White House traditions be maintained and preserved. As with the family of George and Laura Bush, the closeness and affection the Obama family displays toward each other will be important to the country's morale.
As Laura Bush accompanies her husband into their retirement years in Crawford, I wish this remarkable woman, our First Lady, God's speed. She has served us well and is entirely deserving of peace and calm---both qualities she shared with us.