Laura Bush Lane Welch was born on November 4, 1946, in Midland, Texas. She is the only child of Harold Welch, a successful real estate developer, and Jenna Louise Hawkins Welch, a bookkeeper for her husband’s company. Laura was a bashful child who wanted to please her parents. They pushed her to pursue her lifelong passion for reading from an early age.
Laura’s life before college was typical of many young women since she attended public schools and socialized with her peers. On the evening of November 6, 1963, she did, however, experience something that most teenagers do not: She was driving a buddy to a party on a lonely country road at 8 p.m. when she rushed a stop sign and collided head-on with another vehicle, killing the driver. Michael Dutton Douglas, a top athlete and popular student at Robert E. Lee High School, was the driver, and he was a friend and classmate. Laura and her passenger were barely slightly hurt. Even though she was not charged in the accident, the guilt has followed her throughout her life.
After graduating from high school, Laura attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in early education in 1968. She educates second grade for a few years before going to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, to get her master’s degree in library science and working as a public school librarian.
Meeting George W. Bush
On a trip back to Midland in 1977, she ran across George W. Bush at a BBQ held by mutual friends. Bush was George H.W. Bush, a professional politician and former Director of the CIA and a fledgling oil company owner. There was an instant attraction, and Bush proposed to Laura just three months after they met. At the time, he was considering running for Congress, and she agreed on the condition that she would never be asked to give a political speech. She eventually gave in and publicly supported her husband’s failed election bid.
After his defeat, George W. Bush returned to his oil business, and Laura Bush remained a housewife. Still, she quickly returned to politics to assist her father-in-presidential law’s campaign in 1980. Laura gave birth to twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, in 1981, who was named after their grandmothers. Laura began gently but steadily building a family during the years that followed. She hugely impacted her husband’s life by encouraging him to go to church and stop drinking.
Her spouse was once again motivated to enter politics in 1995, running for governor of Texas. He triumphed this time, and Laura was thrown into the spotlight as the state’s first lady. Still a hesitant speaker, Laura gained confidence and began to use her higher position to support causes and initiatives that were important to her. She was successful in getting the state to support early reading, literacy, and child development programs. She also raised over $1 million for public libraries and promoted breast cancer awareness.
Bush launched his presidential campaign in early 2000. Laura ardently backed her husband during the campaign, attending rallies and avoiding controversy. At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000, she gave her first significant national speech. Bush went on to defeat his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, in the closest presidential election in US history.
Laura had intended to maintain a quiet profile as the first lady, but national events made this practically impossible. On September 11, 2001, the incendiary attacks focused attention on the Bush administration, and Laura joined her husband in reassuring the public. She addressed parents’ anxiety and fear about how the attacks affected their children after the assaults. She frequently discussed strategies for parents to console their traumatized children.
Laura supported education, childhood development, and teacher training during her first term as the first lady. She spoke before the Senate Committee on Education in January 2002, advocating for more significant teacher compensation and better Head Start training. Laura started a national campaign called “Ready to Read, Ready to Learn” to encourage children to read at a young age. She also advocated for continuing efforts to save America’s national treasures and backed the “Preserve America” campaign.
Laura greatly expanded her public role as the first lady during the 2004 campaign by giving a primary policy address at the Republican National Convention and later, during the campaign, by speaking about the Bush administration’s significant policy accomplishments and ambitions. Laura extended her involvement after her husband’s victory by leading health, literacy, and gender equality projects. She went to Afghanistan to promote a new Afghan women’s teacher training institute. She states at the World Economic Forum in 2005, emphasizing the importance of education in promoting democracy.
Laura continued to advocate for women’s health in the closing years of her husband’s second tenure. Texas Tech University established the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health in 2007. Laura spoke at gatherings throughout the county about the significance of early detection of heart disease. She came to the Middle East in October 2007 to improve America’s image by emphasizing care for women’s health and raising breast cancer awareness.
Post-White House Years
Laura and her husband went to Dallas, Texas, after the 2008 election to work on the George W. Bush Presidential Library. She also published her memoir, Spoken from the Heart, and a children’s book, Read All About It!, with her daughter Jenna. Laura has continued to work for causes she believes in, like breast cancer awareness and other women’s health issues, as well as education, after leaving the White House.
In June 2018, the previous first lady spoke out against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new policy, in which confident children were separated from their parents after crossing the Mexican border illegally. Bush wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he addressed the faulty policy.