September 7th, 2009
04:36 PM ET
13 years ago

Laura Bush defends Obama school speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former first lady Laura Bush is defending President Obama's decision to address the nation's school children, telling CNN Monday that it is "really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States."

"I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same," she told CNN's Zain Verjee, in an interview set to air Monday on The Situation Room. "And that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have."

The former first lady said she believed criticism of the speech had arisen because of the accompanying lesson plans. If parents are opposed to the address, said Bush, "That's their right. You know that certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school… (But) I think it's also really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States."

Does she think it's fair to criticize Obama, as some have, by labeling him a socialist? "I'd have no idea whether it's fair, do you think I thought it was fair when President Bush was criticized - not really. So, I guess not," she responded.

Bush said that she thought "really safe congressional districts" had contributed to political polarization. "That's just a fact of life in American politics and …I'm sure President Obama didn't expect it to be that way. But you know - it is that way, and I think all of us need to do what we can to come together on issues."

The former first lady added that she thought both Obama and her successor, Michelle Obama, had done good jobs since moving into the White House.

But she also said former Vice President Cheney, who has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration's security policy, "has every right to speak out, and I appreciate that he is defending the Bush administration and his administration."

"But George as a former president chose not to speak out," she added. "He thinks the president deserves the respect and the no second-guessing on the part of the former president… he didn't like it when he was criticized by former presidents and that's what he has chosen to do."

She said her husband and his former vice president still speak "occasionally."

Both Bushes have been working on their memoirs. Bush said her husband has also spent a lot of time mountain biking.

Related: Laura Bush praises Obama, bemoans excessive partisanship

Filed under: Laura Bush
soundoff (197 Responses)
  1. Loup Garou 782

    Sorry Ms. Bush I do not agree. From the day I started school in 1933 until the day I quit school in 1945 to enlist in the USMC we did not have presidents indoctrinating us. There is a big difference between being taught how government works and be instructed as what you can do to help the president.

    September 7, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  2. Post always rejected by CNN

    As many times as she visited schools she knows that children should be encouraged to study and try to improve themselves. And that when anyone....anyone at all does this the decision should be applauded. She is a very wise woman.

    September 7, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. FreeNLovIt - Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed (1SPMI) of the gospel, for it is (3SPAI) the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (PAPMSD), to the Jew first & also to the Greek

    The bar has been raised. Thank goodness shomeone is encouraging citizens to be the best they can be...

    September 7, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Bill from CA

    Figures she'd be the one with the common sense...she's a former Democrat, after all 😉

    September 7, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Pat

    The original posting (read here on CNN) of Pres. Obama's school speech had a part about having the kid writing on how that can support Pres. Obama's ideas. That is the part that is totally wrong.

    Pres. Obama telling students to study hard, get good grades, stay in school. Totally fine. No one is complaining about that.

    As far as the past presidents go, I was in school during Reagan's administration. I was never forced to watch his speech in school. We did not have TVs in every classroom, but we could have been brought to the gym or other big room to listen to the President's speech. We were not. Many schools will require the students watch the President's speech. Just like many had the swearing in on every TV. and the students were forced to watch it. This was not done for Past presidents. Why is that way today?

    September 7, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Dave W.

    Thank Mrs. Bush you are a definite class act! President Obama wouldn't have to speak out on education if we had better parents and teachers to teach are children that math science and english are more important than who is on TMZ and ESPN! Education is the key to being successful!

    September 7, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Lando

    Applause to the Former First Lady for speaking out. I am not going to elaborate on the good points that so many have but one thing I will say is this – all this take back my country mess and opposing anything that the President does is not helping America in its weakest time since the Depression. I guess the Republicans think that the best way to handle their big November 2008 loss is to say anything and everything to start trouble and U wonder how we are fighting 2 wars in the Middle East? Hmmmm...

    September 7, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. ztormtra

    Laura Bush may be a class act, but, as American citizens we have every right to assess and criticize our President, whoever they might be.

    Obama's'speech was changed when he was challenged, pure & simple.

    September 7, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. Amanda

    thank you Mrs Bush for your common sense answer.

    September 7, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. Nick

    Good to see that there's at least 1 Republican who isn't knee-jerking anything related to Barack Obama. Her party has lost all sense of respect, civility and manners, nothing but hate-filled, bibile-hugging so-called conservatives.

    America voted for Obama, he is OUR PRESIDENT, and WE SUPPORT HIM, now if you don't like that, you're free to move somewhere else.

    September 7, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Ben

    I am Canadian. Thank God! I am shocked to see so many Americans speaking about their President in such hateful and disrepective ways. It does not hold promise for a very bright future for your country. That is why I was impressed with Laura Bush speaking up to demonstrate there is actually some one from that party with some common sense. Leaders of countries have always spoken to all the citizens of their nation. I assume these misguide people recognize even their children are citizens. It must be very frightening to people with any common sense to see so people following along behind some very self serving mouthpieces who are making a living by spewing fear and hate. Good grief Limbaugh started out as a clown. It's also sad there are so many who are so insecure that they are afraid of a skin color.

    September 7, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. NWisconsin Boy

    Way to go, Mrs. Bush! Political extremists on both sides of the aisle should back off from the rhetoric, especially when it comes to the office of President and how our kids should respect it, despite our personal policitical views.

    September 7, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Sad educator

    Not every child has an encouraging parent at home who will spend the time stressing the importance of education! People who constantly say parents should be the ones talking to their children about this and that need to understand so many kids do NOT have a positive influence at home, or anyone that is taking the time to encourage them to be the best they can be. Disagree with the president's politics, but don't disrespect the office of the presidency and the impact he or any president can have on a young child.

    September 7, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. tony_n_atl

    Hated her husband as president but always liked her. Her spirit always seemed centered!

    September 7, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. Alice Newman NH

    Mrs. Bush = the best part of the last 8 years! It will be much harder for the vitriolic right-wing to take her down or kick her out of the republican party than those who usually disagree with the talking heads.

    Parents who want total control what children see or hear should and do – home school their children. They don't mind yelling about what schools could and could not do – never mind that they are then telling me what my children can and can't listen to. Squeaky wheel – spineless principals don't make for a strong democracy.

    September 7, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. S Callahan New York

    I don't think President Obama is a socialist. I do think some on his team are not serving his interest well, as evidenced by the sloppy educational directives sent to teachers. I think it's important to note that it's okay to's the name calling that has to go. Demoracy was built on respecting the right to disagree and defending that right to disagree.

    September 7, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. Woodkey

    I read the text of President Obama's talk to our school children and it is wonderful, very inspiring. I am glad my grandchildren will hear it tomorrow. Of course it is just what I expected from this president, an inspiring talk, building the children up and urging them to believe in themselves and keep on keeping on, no matter what. He is a genuine and excellent role model for our children. Those crazy people who have so little to criticize about this man that came out against him speaking to school children before they had any idea of what he would say truly, truly frighten me. They make me afraid for the United States and its future and the future of all our people. I thank God every day that President Obama is the person in charge. God knows what would happen to this country if these crazy vengeful people had their way.

    September 7, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. gil

    Are you folks on the left that blind??? "Just read the speech" the speech is so wonderful. Why was the original speech changed???
    If it was so great Obama would have read the original speech and never changed his "lesson plan" Fact of the matter, you folks are incredibly thin skinned. The minute Obama starts gettting scrutinized, you go ballistic and start the name calling. You seem to have fogotten what Bush went through even before he took office.

    September 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. BAM in Maine

    Finally, a conservative republican who can do her own due diligence and think for herself. Definitely a rarity.

    September 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  20. Charles Johnson

    Not a big fan of dubya, but really think that Laura is a class act. I'm glad she's a neighbor.

    September 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. chapman

    I have to say, as much as I despise what Bush did to this Country under his watch, He & Laura have handled themselves with class for the most part in retirement, choosing to keep quiet on most issues & even standing up for Obama on a few occasions... Bravo.
    Now if only the rest of the Republicans would take their lead...

    September 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  22. Ken in NC

    This is amazing. Parents are being so disrespectful of the President and to the Office and are even up in arms over the President speaking to the school children. They send their kids to schools through and among drug dealers and street gangs and say nothing about the impact these groups may have on their children. They speak out against the leader of the country as being a villain trying to take over their kids but turn their backs when a drug dealer looks straight at them. Suck it up people. You are fighting the wrong battle. President Obama has two kids of his own. I'm sure he is not interested in supporting your kids too but you might consider being a better and more involved role model for your kids.

    September 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Maya Puskovic

    Thank you Laura Bush,
    I disagree that it is not fair to critisize the president in general, but banning his speech from school is censorship. I bet half of those parents who will keep their children out of schooly on tuesday have their TV's at home turned on when Obama is speaking and let their children watch it.
    Maya Puskovic
    Los Angeles, CA

    September 7, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. emmaeve

    Thank you Mrs. Bush,
    It's been a long time since a republican said something that had some sense, Yes, respect the president even if you don't agree with the president show respect you silly paranoid republican parents. President Obama is not the buggy-man.

    September 7, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |

    Laura Bush (& Colin Powell) are the highlights of the Bush/Cheney's era!

    September 7, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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