I don’t follow American politics. I learn about the latest American political decisions and scandals when it trickles down onto Australian news. I decided I wanted to learn more about the former president George Bush and his wife Laura after watching an interview they did with Oprah some years ago. The interview was about their life during George Bush’s political career and they were on to promote Laura Bush’s autobiography, Spoken from the Heart. I was intrigued by Laura Bush who related a story about when she was young and how she got into a car crash which resulted in her friend’s death. I decided I wanted to know more about her so I ordered her book.
Laura was born on the November 4, 1946 in Midland, Texas. She was the only child of Harold Welch and Jenna Louise Hawkins Welch. Harold was a house builder and Jenna was a homemaker and bookkeeper for the family business. In the book, Laura relates how the family would live in the houses that her father made until it was sold and they would move to another house. The Midlands were going through an oil boom so there were plenty of people looking for houses.
Laura had a typical upbringing of a child growing up in the 50s. She played out in the neighbourhood with her friends until it got dark. Her parents encouraged her to read as well and she read many books in her spare time. Laura’s love of reading influenced her in later life as she frequently promotes literacy around the world.
When Laura was a teenager, she was involved in a car crash that killed one of her best friends, Michael Dutton Douglas. It was an event that she has always remembered and regretted. It was November 6, 1963 and Laura and her friend Judy were heading to the drive in theatre. Laura was driving along a road that had no street lights.
At that moment, I heard Judy’s voice: “There’s a stop sign.” And I just couldn’t stop. I was going along, a little below the speed limit, which was fifty-five miles an hour. The next thing I knew, I was in the intersection, and immediately in front of me was another car. It came rushing out of the darkness, and I was right upon it, without seconds to turn the wheel.
Excerpt Spoken by the Heart by Laura Bush pg 59.
The crash was deemed as an accident. Nobody really blamed her for the accident too and everyone was kind. Laura wanted to go the funeral but her parents were against the idea so she didn’t go. She mentioned later in life that she feels that she should have attended the funeral and talked to Michael’s parents.
When Laura grew up she became a teacher and librarian. She travelled a lot and led a busy life as an unmarried woman. She lived in an apartment with friends, she was an exchange student in England and she got a Masters Degree in Library Science.
At age thirty she married George Bush. Although George and Laura were both the same age, it was deemed that Laura Welch, Midland’s spinster schoolmarm had landed George Bush, the most eligible bachelor in town! That’s double standards for you!The couple have two children in 1981 Jenna and Barbara who were named after their grandmothers Jenna Welch and Barbara Bush. Laura goes on to support George Bush throughout his political career, starting with him becoming Governor of Texas in 1995-2000 to his presidency from 2001-2009.
In the autobiography, Laura recounts all the people she met and all the events that she went to during that time. You can read about where she was when September 11th happened, Hurricane Katrina, responses to public criticism and home life.
What I particularly enjoyed reading about was the camaraderie that Laura Bush had with the other first ladies. It was like they had their own little club. All the first ladies that she met were gracious and intelligent women. I always thought that being a First Lady was a passive role but what I learnt from Laura Bush is that First Ladies organise a lot of events, initiatives and usually are board members for a number of causes. (I thought they just showed up to those things >.<).
First Ladies from around the world
Spoken from the Heart took me a long time to read. I wish she had put more chapters into the book to give the reader a few breaks. She covers a lot in each stage of her life, which was a little tedious to get through sometimes. I enjoyed her writing style, I think the text goes at an easy pace and she has a bit of safe, motherly vibe. I think Laura Bush is an interesting, kind, generous and intelligent woman. I hope you give her book a go. I’m looking forward to reading Decision Points by George Bush which is his autobiography. I think it’s going to be interesting seeing the different perspectives of the couple on the same events.