The role of the First Lady is one that has grown and changed overtime. Although there are famous First Ladies, none has shown through in recent years like Laura Bush.
We’ve come to know Laura as the “Comforter in Chief”, for her supportive roll in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, but she really does come from humble beginnings in the small West Texas town of Midland.
Laura was born in Midland in 1946, the only child of Harold and Laura Welch. Her father had a successful real estate business, and her mother helped him run and manage it. Laura recalls that although she was alone a lot as a child this was a pivotal moment for her, because it’s when she discovered the magic of reading books.
“I learned [how important reading is] at home from my mother. When I was a little girl, my mother would read stories to me. I have loved books and going to the library ever since. In the summer, I liked to spend afternoons reading in the library. I enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie books and Little Women, and many others… Reading gives you enjoyment throughout your life.”
She became acquainted with tragedy early on in her life. On the night of November 6, 1963, just 2 days after her 17th birthday, she ran a stop sign. She struck and killed a fellow classmate, Michael Douglas.
It was a devastating tragedy that helped her see the reality and frailty of life. Dr. Myra G Gutin, a First Lady Historian comments on the matter,
“It had the effect of making her a little more thoughtful, a little sadder, a little more world wise.”
Little did we know that this moment would follow her all through life and lead to Laura being known as the “Comforter in Chief.”
She journeyed to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, to attend college where she earned a degree in education. It’s also where she met the love of her life. She was working as a teacher and met George at a mutual friend’s barbecue and the two hit it off immediately.
It was a whirlwind romance to say the least, and the two were married within the year! Then it was straight to the campaign trail as the 31-year-old George W. Bush ran for State Congress in West Texas in 1978.
The campaign forced Laura into the spotlight, something she never sought for herself, but as you can imagine she handled it all with grace. When George lost the campaign, things settled back down as they returned to private life, and soon after the couple had twin girls, Barbara and Jenna.
George was a known alcoholic and by the time he was 40, Laura decided she had enough of his ways and apparently issued him an ultimatum. It was at this point that he put away the drinking for good, and set out to be a good husband to Laura and a good father to his daughters.
In 1995, George entered politics again and became the Governor of Texas. Again, Laura was put back in the spotlight. She didn’t shy from the spotlight, but she didn’t seek it out either. Just a few short years after she was First Lady of the State of Texas, she became the First Lady of the United States.
But when the events of 9/11 took place, everything changed for her and she was always by her husband’s side. So much so that people started calling her, “The Comforter In Chief.”
This was the launching pad for the actions that would define her time as the First Lady. She always had a heart for children, but she began by speaking to parents of children who were dealing with fear and anxiety over the terror attacks. Throughout her two terms she focused on literacy for children, wellness and gender equality.
Laura Bush talks about some of the moments that changed her life in this short but moving Biography:
It’s this image of Laura Bush that we remember. Not the shy girl from Midland, Texas, with humble beginnings, but that of a woman who was sure in her identity and was able to be a bedrock for her husband and stood up for the disadvantaged.
Share this if you miss having Laura Bush as First Lady.