Tags: Laura Bush | Bush legacy | George W. Bush

Laura Bush Working to Champion Husband's Legacy

Image: Laura Bush Working to Champion Husband's Legacy
Former first lady Laura Bush. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 09:05 AM

Former first lady Laura Bush has now taken over the stage her husband says he's vacated, and her busy schedule includes appearances and policy work that often serves to boost his legacy.

When former President George W. Bush left office, he took up painting  and has recently finished writing a biography of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, reports The Washington Post.  However, he makes few public appearances.

Laura Bush, though, maintains a high profile and attends at least 200 events a year, and still enjoys popularity ratings that have always remained high since the White House days, when only a third of Americans approved of her husband.

And that popularity and her appearances, during which she often champions her husband's work as president, may be showing results. The former president's approval rating is up 11 points among Republicans since he left office, a Gallup Poll earlier this summer shows, and 15 points with Democrats.

Laura Bush has been stereotyped as being the "woman behind the man, baking the cookies," and she's nothing like that, one of her twin daughters, Jenna Bush Hager, told The Post.

"Throughout my dad's presidency and afterward, she's been this sort of quiet force," said Hager. "I know her so well, so to me she's this very strong presence, but I'm not sure if everybody sees her that way."

A large part of her work has been to establish the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, which contains the former president's library, a museum, and a policy institute, a project that was started when the couple left Washington.

Bush is quick to outline the work her husband still does, including with veterans and world health, and in promoting the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a key initiative from his administration. She says the program inspired their other twin daughter, Barbara, to become involved in global health.

But Bush herself has continued to work on women's issues, telling The Post that she's "worked with women from Afghanistan, and I am worried about Afghanistan. I'm worried about them, particularly about their rights, because those rights are so fragile. So, I want to get the word out to Americans everywhere that we need to continue to support the women of Afghanistan."

Bush, though, was always in contrast with Hillary Rodham Clinton and then Michelle Obama, both powerhouse first ladies in their own right. But unlike Clinton, who went onto become a senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, Bush's views often did not get attention like those of the other first ladies.

Instead, Bush, who was only the second first lady with an advanced degree and who had a career as a librarian and a teacher, worked more behind the scenes.

Anita McBride, her former chief of staff, notes that Bush was much more active in the White House than people may believe. She was the first president's wife to give the weekly presidential radio address, and traveled to visit Afghanistan in 2005. Bush also took four trips to Africa to support her husband's HIV/AIDS relief efforts.

She also lobbied Congress for the No Child Left Behind initiative, and held her own news conference on human rights issues in Burma, an issue she still follows closely.

But while her husband has said he'd let history judge his time as president, Bush has taken a role in building his legacy. However, she does it quietly, says Mark Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson library.

"Nancy Reagan did it more blatantly and more pointedly than Mrs. Bush is doing it," said Updegrove, while noting Bush is shaping her husband's legacy all the same.

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Former first lady Laura Bush has taken over the stage her husband says he's vacated, and her busy schedule includes work that often serves to boost his legacy.
Laura Bush, Bush legacy, George W. Bush
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2014-05-10
Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 09:05 AM
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