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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Laura Bush Speaks at National Press Club

Aired November 8, 2001 - 13:16   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to Washington and the National Press Club. The first lady is there. We'll pick up her speech live, and then later we'll replay the top of it. Some interesting personal reflections on September 11.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: ... counted three times just to make sure they were right. They had raised $85.75.

They sent the money, along with a letter, to President Bush. They each signed it, and Cole had the last word: "From Cole Rainey (ph), Libby Rainey (ph) and friends Sophie Mansky (ph) and Laura Selig (ph), your citizens."

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: These stories show the great citizenship and patriotism that is apparent everywhere in our country. We've also seen it in the singing of God Bless America at so many events, and in the displays of flags on homes and store windows and car antennas and people's jacket lapels. I will never forget a moment during the Pentagon memorial service. The choir was singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and the next thing you know we were all singing along. Then suddenly a woman in a turquoise dress way in the back of the huge crowd stood up and began swaying and waving her flag in the air. Then we were all on our feet waving thousands of American flags -- united and not ashamed when our eyes filled with tears, and our hearts swelled with pride for our country.

I knew there was a renewed spirit of love for America in the places that were most directly affected by the attacks, yet exactly one week after the attack we were driving through the streets of Chicago and almost on every house and nearly every building I saw an American flag.

We're a kinder nation today. People seem to take more time to ask about each other. I notice more people hugging their friends and even reaching out to touch people they barely know. We're opening our doors to our neighbors and our hearts to strangers.

Just outside of Washington, women from a local Jewish congregation volunteered to shop for Muslim women who were afraid to go out on their own for fear of harassment. In New York, families opened their homes to their evacuated neighbors. We stand patiently in line now in airports, glad that the slow pace means careful inspection. We're saying thank you to the National Guardsmen who have left their families to stand duty at airport checkpoints.

We seem to have a new appreciation for those who serve, whether as police officers, firefighters, soldiers, teachers or elected officials. For the first time in three decades, a majority of Americans say they trust the government to do what's right.

The cynicism and distrust with which people viewed government is replaced with a spirit of appreciation and respect for public servants that I think is healthy for our democracy. Police officers and firefighters have become America's celebrities.

We've witnessed the love and sacrifice of teachers who fought their own fears to keep their children calm and safe. In Manhattan, some teachers took their children home with them until they could find their parents. In other parts of the country, teachers had to locate traveling parents.

As our teachers comforted our children, some Americans realized that our teachers needed comforting, too. In New York, I met a teacher at a public school, Public School Number 41, which was evacuated because it was in the shadow of the World Trade Center, and she told me about a parent who had given her a gift certificate for a massage as a way of showing appreciation for her. As a former public school teacher myself, I can say with certainty that teachers in your media markets would love for that idea to catch on.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: We owe a special debt of gratitude to America's teachers. Their jobs are already difficult, and their extra effort, far and above what is asked of them, says much about their devotion to our children.

Because schools already play such an important role in our lives and in our communities, we recognize and appreciate them more than ever. In Florida, the superintendent of schools, Dan Gault (ph), said that a student told him, "Thank you for keeping school open. I know everything will be OK because I'm coming to school today."

People are enlisting to serve in our military. Katherine Dwyer (ph) grew up in a big family in Bethesda, Maryland. She studied studio art in college and went to work in an art gallery. But after September 11, she said as she and her mom watched the unfolding horror on television, that she decided to enlist in the Army. She said, "I thought to myself, now's the time. I've got to get ready. Our country needs people like myself, people my age who are willing to step up and serve because it's needed right now."

And I think the attacks have caused all of us to reassess our priorities and our values. Rather than fearing death, we're embracing life, life that is now seen as more precious, more meaningful than it seemed before that tragic fall day. A reporter at the White House told one of our staff members that he had raked leaves with his children over the weekend and it was so wonderful to do something so normal. Robert Moore, a fiscal officer for the Ohio Department of Development, says he and his wife Nancy are spending more time with their boys. "It's made us more aware of how precious life is," said Mr. Moore. "We're reassessing what we consider important."

A third of all Americans say they're spending more time with their families. Almost half are calling friends and families more. College students are calling home and looking forward to coming home. A freshman at Boston College told one reporter she couldn't wait for Thanksgiving just to sit around the table with her family.

In the aftermath of the attack, 40 percent of Americans say they're praying more, and a quarter say they're spending more time in houses of worship. The Sunday after the attacks, we attended church at Camp David. We were so glad to see the members of the congregation, the 70 or so people, mostly young couples with children, who attend regular services there.

On September 11, one of the rumors that was reported as fact was that Camp David had also been attacked.

For over an hour, I believed that it had been hit and I was so sad for the people there -- people we worship with almost every weekend.

The young chaplain is a graduate of the Perkins School of Theology at my alma mater Southern Methodist University. And he has quiet and sincere faith. He based his sermon that Sunday on the Psalm outlined in the lectionary for that September day, Psalm 27: "Your face, Lord, do I seek. I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." And that, of course, is what's happened. We're seeing goodness throughout our land.

As I witness the kindnesses that you report on across the country, I get a sense of a new America. Before September 11th, people seemed to spend a lot of time complaining about what was wrong with their towns or their states or their country and I'm certainly no exception.

When my daughters were in elementary school, you won't believe this, but I, as a former public school teacher, actually called my mother to complain about one of the girls' teachers. I was upset because she'd sent them home with a note saying they were disorganized, when I thought it was really the teacher who was disorganized.

My mother thought for a moment and said, "Have you gone up to the school to help the teacher?" And of course, I had to say no. Let that be a lesson to you. You're never too old to get taken to school by your mother.

(LAUGHTER) BUSH: We've been living in an age of self-absorption and self- indulgence. But the amazing thing is that in one day, it all stopped and we started to re-think things. We began to think not about what is wrong, but about what is right with our towns and our states and our country. Larry McQuillen's question got me thinking about how I could be a part of America's response to our children.

Now I'd like to get you think to about how you can use the medium of the news to harness this great national energy. There is nothing like the power of the media. And I was reminded of that fact when one of my best friends called me the other day. She used to tell me that she was glad she wasn't in my shoes. But the other day, she said that for the first time she saw me on the news and she felt an actual pang of jealousy. She realized and reminded me that I had a great opportunity to reach out to a large audience and help people, while she in comparison didn't know what she could do to help.

Helping others does make us feel good. We've raised record amounts of money. We've given enormous support to national organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. We've heard accounts about how fast the news had to change in New York with regard to requests for supplies. People responded to the news so rapidly and so overwhelmingly that constant updates had to be issued to stop or redirect the flood of responses.

You have a real opportunity to make sure that as time passes Americans are still informed about the ways they can exercise their compassion. You have an opportunity to highlight the needs in your communities, so that people know what they can do to make life better where they live.

Many things have changed since September 11th. We're sadder and less innocent, more determined and prepared, wiser and in many ways better, more patriotic, more united, more compassionate. And many important things haven't changed at all -- our faith, our love of family and friends, the freedoms and the ideals that this country stands for, the freedoms that we must now defend. Through this experience, we're re-learning our own values and the world has seen the very foundation of America.

In Pennsylvania, an article quoted a four-year-old girl who could not understand how terrorists could hate a whole nation of people they didn't even know. Her innocent question was, "Why don't we just tell them our names?"

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: The people who died on September 11 all had names and lives and people who loved them. We value each one of those lives and we show it, and for some that value shines through faith. During the World Trade Center survivors' memorial service at ground zero, Rabbi Joseph Pasternak (ph) shared a story with the mourners. He said that a few hours earlier, he'd received a phone call from a woman who was giving birth to a baby very soon. She said she wanted to name her child after a World Trade Center victim who didn't have a child. Before she hung up, she made this promise to the rabbi. She said, "I promise I'll try to have more children, because I know there are so many names."

That's one of the major differences between our country and the people we fight. We believe every person matters, that every individual is valuable and has a right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If we were to set aside one day for each victim to honor and remember them, it would take us over 13 years to complete our tribute. Or to put it another way, a child born on September 11 would be entering high school by the time we were through with our days of remembrance.

This nation was born in a spirit of optimism and courage. That's the spirit that beckons so many immigrants yearning for a fresh start, willing to take the risk for the hope of a better life for themselves and their families. That spirit of optimism and courage still beckons people from around the world who want to come here. And that spirit of optimism and courage must guide us now.

We're a different country than we were on September 10 in ways that the terrorist could not have imagined or intended. We'll go back to our routines as we always do, but we'll do with a stronger sense of life and liberty.

Americans are wiling to fight and die for our freedoms, but more importantly we're willing to live for them. We'll move on with our lives, but we won't forget the images and the events, the photos and the front pages of the past two months. They're etched into our minds forever. Some witnessed the moving images, others captured them, but we all feel the power and the potential of this still-unfolding drama.

I've learned these things from my visits with people throughout the heartland. We've all been watching and reading the news. I've seen people helping strangers. I've seen strangers becoming heroes. I've seen this country at its best. Americans are proud and we care about each other. That's what I see in the news, and that's what I see in America.

Thank you all very much.

(APPLAUSE)

MODERATOR: We have a number of questions here. But first I must tell you that sitting next to your press secretary here, who looked at all the questions, she says she's really frustrated, because she couldn't tell you what they were.

(CROSSTALK)

MODERATOR: A number of questions, of course, that deal with September the 11th, and two questions that deal with how has your routine changed since that day; and do you plan to travel around the country more for reassurance to the American people; and has your outlook on life changed?

BUSH: Well, I think I said some of those answers in my speech. My routine has changed. We immediately canceled a lot of events that we had on our schedule right after September 11. I did continue to do some of the events that were on my schedule that had to do with schools. I taught around America. I taught in five different cities -- in Baltimore, in Washington, in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and Newark, New Jersey -- which was a really wonderful week.

Only the teachers here know how comforting second-graders are. But for me, I was really comforted around that whole week when I would be in a class and second-graders would have their letters ready for me to bring back to the president. And the letters would say, Dear Mr. President, I love you; I love the firemen; and I love the firemen's dogs...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: They were very, very reassuring.

I also went to Learning Leaders, which is the big volunteer arm of the New York City public schools. It's bigger -- actually there are more members than there are Peace Corps members. It's a huge volunteer arm. And I spoke there because I had the same message to say to them -- these are the volunteers who work in public schools -- and that was for them to comfort those teachers. The teachers are comforting our children, but all of us, as parents of school children or as community leaders, need to thank teachers around the country for the care they're taking of our kids.

But then there are other things that have changed. There are no tours right now of the White House. In a lot of ways, I think that's sad. You know, when I walk downstairs just to even walk the dogs out, I have to walk by a screen when there are tours to take the dogs out on the lawn. But now that screen isn't up because there aren't tours and it's lonely and sort of quiet in there. So I hope that'll come back pretty soon.

MODERATOR: This questioner said that you are a lover of words, obviously, as a teacher and a librarian. Have you found any poems or books or quotes that have really sustained you during this period?

BUSH: I actually read some poems yesterday with my husband's aunt. Nancy Ellis from Boston was spending the night with me, and she brought a book of Billy Collins poems. He's our poet laureate. And there's a very amazing poem in his new book called Passengers, and it's about passengers on a plane and what happens to them. And of course, he wrote it before September 11, but it's a really lovely poem. It's hard to read right now.

Also she and I read yesterday together some of Mary Oliver's poems. I love her poems. We read one called the Sun and another one called Wild Geese. Both of those are poems about how beautiful our natural world is and I think that's something we can take comfort in. In fact, I think that was one of the most disconcerting things about September 11, was it was such a beautiful day outside. It was so beautiful outside with such terrible things happening.

But yes, I read all the time. I read for inspiration, but also for devotion when I'm anxious.

MODERATOR: I think I have read several times that your husband, the president, sort of works off stress by exercising and doing that sort of thing. What do you do to relieve the stress?

BUSH: Well, I read. I'm also working out. Can you all tell?

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: The very first book I read after September 11 was a mystery, Sue Grafton's P is for Peril. She had just given it to me at the National Book Festival which was the weekend before September 11 and which was so terrific. There was such a huge crowd of people that showed up for the National Book Festival and stood in line for a long time to get the autographs or hear the readings of their favorite authors. I'm sad that that was totally eclipsed by what happened two days later, but it was really a terrific festival that I hope will continue.

So I like to read. Those are the things I do for stress mainly -- exercise and read -- like him.

MODERATOR: A number of questioners have asked about your daughters, Jenna and Barbara. And they say, how are your daughters handling the aftermath of September 11? Do they worry about you and the president? I suspect I know the answer to that. What conversations have you had with your daughters about the September 11 incident and things that have happened afterwards?

BUSH: Our daughters are doing very well. They came home the week -- a couple of weekends after September 11 was parents' weekend at the University of Texas, and our daughter who is there knew that we couldn't come that weekend. So instead she and her sister came here to be with us, which was very reassuring for us. We could wait to put our arms around them.

They are just doing great. We will see them over the holidays. We will see them Thanksgiving. I think they -- I know they are very, very proud of their father, and they are slightly worried, but they don't really tell us that that much.

MODERATOR: This questioner notes that since September 11, your husband has surprised many in the nation -- I suspect not you -- but has surprised many in the nation with characteristics they didn't believe he possessed -- focused tenacity, a certain eloquence. Knowing him as you obviously do, has anything about him surprised you since September 11?

BUSH: No.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I knew he had the focus. He's a very focused and very disciplined person. He always has been. I knew he was that tenacious. Those are just characteristics that he has. Certainly, he is more serious now. We still try to say things to each other to make each other laugh and to be funny. I think laughter a lot of times diffuses nervousness or feelings of anxiety. But I knew he had all those characteristics.

MODERATOR: Have you noticed any other changes in him, this questioner asks. Is he more tense? Is he more tired? Is his hair grayer, as some people have said?

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Well, let's see. I don't think his hair is really grayer. I'll have to look again.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Not really -- I mean, I wouldn't say he was tense. I wouldn't say he was tired. I'd say he was very resolved. He's very focused on what is ahead of us. He, like many Americans, doesn't have patience as a very strong characteristic, but he knows that that's what we have to be; that this will be long and that we have to be patient as a country and that he has to be patient as the commander- in-chief. But I think he is buoyed by the spirit of Americans and by how strong Americans are, and by the -- I can't tell you the number of people that say to us or write to us that they are praying for us, and that makes us feel really good.

MODERATOR: Now for you in your role as first lady, a number of questions about that, and this one would like to know, do you view your role as first lady more like that of Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, or more along the lines of Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower and Patricia Nixon?

BUSH: I view my role as first lady as Laura Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I really do think that Americans want the first lady to do whatever it is she wants to do. And I think they are supportive of the first lady no matter what she might want to work on. But I also know that we benefited always because of the expertise or the interest or the passions of our first ladies.

And certainly one of my favorite first ladies, next to my mother- in-law Barbara Bush, is Lady Bird Johnson. I know her because she lives in Austin and I have admired her for many, many years. But she literally started the use of native plants in the landscape and on the roadsides with the Highway Beautification Act. She is very -- there are just a lot of things about her that I think are terrific. So I think in the end, we always benefit from what our first ladies are interested in and what they do for us.

MODERATOR: Do you view the role of the first lady as sort of a co-presidency?

BUSH: No. No. No, I don't. I mean, I'm a partner to my husband, of course, and when you're in this job, you're in this job. I mean, it isn't like you can -- that I could go away for the weekend and forget that my husband is president. That just doesn't really happen. But no, I don't see it as a co-presidency. I'm a partner with him certainly, and I want to do whatever I can, whatever expertise I have that helps people. But he was the one elected. I would have never run.

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: You might have been elected as well.

You have a former first lady that's not very far from here -- just down in the Capitol, Mrs. Clinton. Have you received any sort of help or advice or support from her?

BUSH: Mrs. Clinton was very generous with her time when we finally found out my husband had won and we came here that week in December. She was very generous with the tour of the entire White House. She talked a lot about things she might have done differently, and gave me some advice, which I'm not going to tell you what it was.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: But sure, absolutely. When you live in the White House, you are so aware and interested in all the people who lived there before you. There are remnants of every family around you all the time. One of the things I've been doing since we moved in is settling into our second floor living quarters, where I had the opportunity to go to where White House furniture is in storage, and bring back different pieces of furniture that belonged to other presidents and their families. And for the president's upstairs office, the Treaty Room, I brought back a set of Grant's furniture. And when I brought it back, I thought well, that's sort of Victorian looking; it's not that attractive. And my husband said, "No, I want Grant's furniture in my office." He thought that was really terrific.

I brought back a beautiful big French desk that Jackie Kennedy brought to the White House when she redid the White House. It was actually in the Red Room when she brought it back, and it's upstairs in the big, long yellow hall that we have.

So I think the president and I both learn from the lives of every president and first lady who were there before us. And we are very interested in their lives and what life was like for them.

And I will say, I think we're a lot more sympathetic for them than other people might be. For instance, Mary Todd Lincoln, who was reviled and people didn't like her, but she had such a terrible and sad life. She lost her son, then her husband was assassinated in front of her. And you know, her brothers fought in the confederacy. You know, you can really empathize and see how difficult life has been for a lot of people who preceded us.

QUESTION: You, of course, are very close to one former first lady, Barbara Bush. What is the best advice that you may have received from her?

BUSH: Barbara Bush is so terrific. She's very fun and very funny. She came in last Sunday for my birthday. And she and I went to my sister-in-law's play. My sister-in-law Margaret is an actress. The famous advice, which I've told 100 times, and I'll tell it one more time, was when George was running for Congress in 1977, she said don't criticize his speeches; that she had just criticized her George's speech somewhere, and he'd come home for weeks later with letters saying that was the best speech he had ever given.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: So I was very aware of her advice. And I knew it was really good advice, and I was not going to criticize my husband's speeches. And I really was very careful about it. And one night we were driving from Lubbock to Midland and just as we turned into our driveway, he said, "Tell me the truth, how was my speech?" And I said, well, it wasn't that good. And with that, he drove into the garage wall.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: So other than the caliber of his speechmaking, do you and the president disagree about anything? And if so, what?

BUSH: Sure, we disagree. Let's think. We've been married a long time and I think even on issues that we might disagree on, we understand the other's point of view. One thing about politics for sure is you nearly always have an opponent, so it doesn't have to be your spouse. I really mean that. I mean, I think our marriage is closer because we work together for whatever. We were even working together when he was an owner of the Texas Rangers, hoping the Rangers would win. So we don't have that many disagreements. I can't think of any really, right now.

QUESTION: What has surprised you most about living in the White House? I think you described earlier what the bad parts are. What is the nicest part of it?

BUSH: Well, it's such a beautiful house, for one thing. And I have loved the part about moving into the upstairs and bringing furniture out of storage that belonged to other presidents. I like houses and I like to work on houses, and that's been fun. The staff that's there is terrific, and the staff has been there for a lot of years. We knew all of them because we visited before when President Bush number 41 was president. They are terrific there. And then as I was saying before, just the whole fact of living in a house that Abraham Lincoln once lived in is unbelievable. I mean, it's really, really fabulous.

And the whole history of our country, I think, is so documented by the lives of the people who lived in the White House. And that's been really interesting and certainly one of the nicest parts.

QUESTION: Has there been anything about living there that you really didn't expect, and you walked in and said, "Gosh, I don't know about this" -- anything like that?

BUSH: A really good thing, and that is, you have to be very careful. You can't say things like, "I wonder what it would be like if bookshelves were over there," because they'll be there the next day. So that part has been great. We had a really huge advantage because we had been to the White House a lot. We knew our way around the White House because we had visited my husband's parents there.

And that really was a big advantage for us, especially since we got a little bit of a late start in the transition. You know, it would have been very difficult if we had never been there before. People who come visit me walk by the elevator foyer, for instance -- I mean, it's big and it's grand and it is really fabulous. So that was a big advantage.

MODERATOR: A couple of questions note that you and the president are going to entertain Russian President Putin and his wife in Crawford, Texas next week. They want to know how you're going to entertain the couple. This one is a little more specific. I think it must be a Texas reporter because they said, will you serve the Putins barbecue, tacos, pecan pie? And are you importing any coyotes to howl at night?

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Well, we don't have to import them. We hear them. We hear them at night on the ranch -- coyotes. I hate tell this. Can I tell it? So early? We have a really wonderful visit planned for them. I think it's going to be very lovely. We're going to have a chuck wagon out on the lawn with cowboys cooking. We're going to have beef tenderloin, of course, and pecan pie -- yes on the pecan pie. Our property, actually -- we have hundreds of pecan trees on our ranch. And we have a great little Texas swing band, just five members, acoustical, who sing those great western songs, like Drifting Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds. I think they'll really like it and I think it will really be a beautiful, beautiful evening. So we're looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: On a little more serious note, this questioner wants to know if you believe that the such personal relationships as you are establishing with the Russian president really can lead to better relations between our two countries.

BUSH: I think they can help, for sure. I think it does make a difference. Yes, I think it can be very helpful to have a good relationship with other world leaders, especially now when our relationship and our friendship with so many countries -- our alliance with so many countries in our fight against terrorism is so important. I think that the relationships between leaders are even more important.

Last night, Prime Minister Tony Blair was here; had dinner with the president at the White House, and then came upstairs and we sat in the president's upstairs office for a while.

And I think those kind of relationships are very, very important for our country.

MODERATOR: As you know, Thanksgiving is not far off, and a couple questions about that. This one is, who cooks the turkey for your Thanksgiving and where will you have it? And do you have any special Bush family Thanksgiving traditions?

BUSH: One of our best traditions for Thanksgiving is that we always have a birthday party, because our girls were born on November 25. And so a lot of times their birthday falls during the Thanksgiving holidays. This year it's the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and so not only does that make it a birthday weekend, but it also is the most important thing we're thankful for, of course, and that is our girls.

This year I will not be cooking the turkey.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I haven't had to cook in a few years, and it's been a great relief for my family.

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: Will the traditional Christmas decorations and events that take place at the White House still occur this year in light of what has happened?

BUSH: That's right. We had actually picked the theme for the White House Christmas decorations way last July. I don't know if you all know that much about the decorations, but everyone on the White House staff works to make decorations -- the plumber, the electrician, the ushers, the curators -- everybody works on the White House decorations.

I don't want to tell you what the theme is yet. We'll announce that a little bit closer to the holidays. But I did reassess what it was, and we were well into the making of the decorations. We'd written out to all the different states to ask artists to make decorations as well. But I think the theme actually ended up being really very good for this particular Christmas. But we will have our parties. We'll have certainly the press party at the White House and all the traditional Christmas parties.

MODERATOR: That's good to hear.

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: Turning to your teaching and librarian skills again, this questioner would like to know, what is the best strategy parents can use to turn their children into lifelong readers?

BUSH: Well, I think the very most important thing parents can do is to read to their children from when they're infants, really. And I bet that every one of you who's a writer was read to by somebody -- by your mother or your father or your grandparents. And certainly my love of reading came because my mother read to me every day. It was a very important part of our relationship. And what children find out when you read to them is not just that reading's important, but that they're important; that they're important enough to you that you'll spend 15 or 20 minutes a day with your arm around them reading to them.

So I think that's by far the most important way to become a life- long reader, and children who have been read to everyone knows, and there's a lot of new research, and in fact that was the research that we talked about at the summit on early childhood education, that shows that children who've been read to from when they were six months old start school ready to learn to read.

They start school with a much bigger vocabulary than just a spoken vocabulary, and it's just very important. So I would say that's the most important thing, and that's to spend time reading with your children.

MODERATOR: We all know that you're a voracious reader, but how about writing? Do you anticipate writing a book within the next 10 years? And if you do, would you write about education or your experiences at the White House?

BUSH: I guess it will be whether or not I can get that $8 million advance or whatever it is.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Only kidding.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I am a great reader. I love to read. I'm not really a writer. I don't write that many things. I have thought it might be fun to write a baby book -- a little hard cardboard book that you read to babies and babies chew on. And they say -- I've read this, but I don't know how people know this -- but supposedly babies really react to black and white; that they like black and white books. So I thought it would be fun to do a book about Barney, our dog, and do it all in black and white and do a little baby book, a little book to read to babies.

MODERATOR: Before asking the last question, I have a little bit of business up here which -- one is a certificate of appreciation for your appearance here at the National Press Club, and the famous National Press Club mug, which I hope will find a place on your desk.

BUSH: Thank you.

MODERATOR: And the last question is sort of a two-parter. The first one says, we've heard that you told George Bush that you'd marry him if you didn't have to give speeches. So how did you become such a charming speaker? And given that, the next questioner asks, do you have any political aspirations when you leave office?

BUSH: Well, thank you for the compliment on being a good speaker. When I married George, he was running for Congress, and so I said, you know, I don't ever want to have to give a speech. And he said, "Oh, great. You won't have to. Don't worry."

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: So much for political promises. But at the same time, I did promise him that I would run with him every day, because jogging and running is so important to him. So I never, ever ran with him -- not once.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: And about three months after we married, he couldn't be at some candidate's even in Levaland, Texas, and so I went there for him. And I'd written sort of a good start to the speech. I had a cute start. And then, you know, then I just found myself not knowing what to say next. But the good thing is in West Texas everyone is so nice that every person in the audience, including all the other candidates, were just sort of shaking their heading and smiling at me like I was doing great. That's it.

MODERATOR: That's it.

BUSH: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I appreciate your being here.

BROWN: First lady Laura Bush at the National Press Club. That is a very rare opportunity. The first lady does not do many of these sorts of things, and certainly doesn't take questions very often. She was charming, and interesting, and funny. Of life at the White House she said, in the absence of tourists there -- I thought this was really interesting -- it's lonely there these days, she said.

She described her husband as a bit more serious now. She used the word "anxiety" in describing herself a couple of times. There are times she gets quite anxious, and often reads. And if nothing else, we learned, again, about the first lady, she can deliver a good punch line. She had several today.

One other thing she noted early on. She said we had been living in a world of self-absorption, and it all changed on one day, September 11. She began her remarks at the Press Club by talking about September 11. And we got in a little late because we were overseas at 10 Downing Street. So we want to replay just a portion of the top, because it's quite personal.

And her memories of that day, now, eight weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: But actually on the morning of September 11, I was on my way to Capitol Hill to brief the Senate Education Committee on early childhood education. And I know that in the wake of what's happened in our country, on September 11, it's particularly important now -- more important than ever, maybe -- to pay attention to our children's needs, and to reassure them that -- as we continue to teach and guide them.

And I know also, we are learning, as well. In the two months since September 11, we've seen the worst and the best of human nature. We've felt sadness and anger and fear. And yet, out of those emotions has risen courage and hope.

President Bush said we're a nation awakened to danger. But we're also a nation awakened to patriotism, and to citizenship, and to service. None of us could have imagined the evil that was done to our country. Yet out of that, we've learned that out of tragedy can come great good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: The first lady at the National Press Club. At 10:00 tonight we'll play -- "NEWS NIGHT," we'll play more of her personal observations and remembrances of September 11 -- at 10:00 on "NEWS NIGHT." We hope you'll join us for that.

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