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. Kirk

    You have to admire her.....she's stepping out .

    September 7, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. sad

    I'm so confused as to why there is controversy over Obama making a back to school speech..seriously now..what is the harm in this?? I haven't heard one plausible argument as to why he shouldn't! This is just there nothing else these republican idiots can think of to complain about??? I swear if Obama said he had a cure for AIDS they would find something wrong about that too..SMH

    September 7, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Kay Parks

    Isn't it amazing how grateful we are when someone like Laura Bush has the courage and goodness to speak out for civility and respect for our president? Obviously, it's because about all we hear these days is the lunatic fringe screaming hatred. They started out just being rude, but were encouraged by the talk radio idiots and even some elected officials to the point where they now are acting like packs of hyenas. So thank you, thank you Mrs. Bush. You stand among a too small number of Republicans who have spoken up for truth and civility.

    September 7, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Karen from Florida

    Thank goodness for some sanity in the form of Laura Bush, amongst the madness against the President of the United States urging children to work hard and finish their education! Yes, parents have the right to peruse what their children are exposed to in any form. What frightens me though is where does, "Be respectful of your elders go?" One does not have to agree with the President of the United States personally, but I do think parents should add, "but I DO respectfully disagree, and honor his office." One has to wonder if these same parents will be respected as their children' s elders when the children meet the normal rebellious teenage stage?

    September 7, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Alberta Treadway

    It is so wonderful to see so many posted here that is respecting Laura Bush a former republican first lady, an calling for more respectful talk where the President of The United states is concerned! Today I am proud of all of you, from all the parties speaking here today. Now, can you get your senators and congress to do the same? It's been to long comeing, to put the nonesense to rest now!

    September 7, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Denna

    Finally, a calm voice in the wilderness. Thank you Mrs. Bush. President Obama only wants to encourage American children, who are falling behind other nations, to excel in their studies. The partisan bickering and conservative backstabbing is not helping our children. For once the conservatives should think about our children and not their own political careers. If conservative parents don't allow their children to participate, that means that minority children and children of liberals will be way ahead in their ability to think. They'll know and enjoy something that children of conservatives won't have enjoyed. Conservative parents are not good parents if they behave like this. I guess its true that ignorance breeds ignorance.

    September 7, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |

    Obama should make Laura Bush his honorary adviser to help heal this nation from further divisiveness!

    September 7, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. dtaylor

    Someone mentioned this speech was changed after all the criticism...where do you people get such thoughts. The speach as ALWAYS been about the imporance of education...the problem is people were critical and judgemental without even knowing what the President was going to say...the fact is it wasn't even about what he was saying but that President Obama was saying it..that is really their issue.

    As for the "lesson play" was never about what you can do to help the President in terms of his was what can you do as a student to adhere to the President's message on taking responsibility for your education.

    September 7, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Austin

    Thank you Laura Bush for being a voice of reason.

    September 7, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. Beverly Grove

    Thank you, Mrs. Bush. I think that we, as a nation, must reinforce the need to respect the President. we may not agree with everything that they do, but the response to this speech to school children has really gone over the top. As a former teacher, I thought that the question being put forth the most from the "lesson plan" referred to how the student would "help the President" by being a better student and how that could be accomplished by each student. Never would I have directed a lesson to health care, the economy, or any other aspect the government is pursuing from a "back to school" speech geared to all school children. Does a first or second grade student even know what the economy is?

    September 7, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. drskuter

    Mrs. Bush has always been a class act!

    September 7, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  12. Sandra

    As always Mrs. Bush, conducted herself in a ladylike way regarding the Obama school speech, and I admire her for that. I'm glad too that President Bush did no comment on the speech, as for myself–the speech in itself seems to be ok, but what did bother me were the lesson plans etc. The Dept of Education DID NOT NEED TO BE INVOLVED!!
    Also why are all Republicans being critized for being vocal on this subject, recalling that Democrats were vocal in critizing the 1st president Bush on his address!

    September 7, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. slp

    Oh, I plan to let my child watch the speech. It will be at home with me. There is no way on this earth that I will EVER let any democrat address my child without me being present. It isn't the speech that I object to. It is the lesson plans. Why are those needed? If President Obama wants to address the nation's children, fine. Why have lesson plans attached unless there is an ulterior motive. I don't need the government's help in raising my children. That is where I draw the line.

    September 7, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. Bobbie J

    I read the speech and I wish when I was in school I would have received a speech as this one on the first day from any president.

    For my nieces and nephews who will see it tomorrow I say, thank you Mr. President.

    September 7, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. Michaele

    Thanks, Laura. Remember where George Bush was on 9/11. He was in a classroom encouraging kids to stay in school and reach their full potential.

    We should not take this out of the job description of the President of the United States. It would be a shame if kids in other countries knew more about the President of the United States than our own kids do.

    September 7, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. james

    Be careful Laura. Beck, Rush, and their ilk, may take aim at you.

    September 7, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  17. vick

    i think she should be our next president

    September 7, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. SB

    Classy Lady!

    September 7, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  19. Steve in North Carolina

    I liked "W" and Laura. They both are class acts. I never cared for the extremists that constantly attacked President Bush and I don't care for the extremists attacking President Obama. It is one thing to express disagreement in a civil manner, but quite another to denigrade the person just because you don't like his or her views.

    Sadly, more media time is devoted to the nut cases screaming in our faces all of the time instead of rational discourse. Let's give more time to people who have a real point to make and less to those who do nothing but try to outscream the other.

    September 7, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. betty

    congradulations to Laura Bush for being such a class act. Bush Sr. did the same thing spoke to our youth. What would be the difference?
    For the republicans need to get a life and stop with hated this does not accompish anything.

    September 7, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. John Weinbrecht

    Well, I think it's gotten about as stupid as it can (I should know better by now...). The President of the United States wants to tell our school children to do their homework and study hard so they can make the most of their lives, AND HE'S GETTING CRITICIZED FOR IT! Can it get any goofier?

    September 7, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. michael

    As a left leaning independent.......can we elect Laura Bush president. Maybe we will get some civility back into Washington. Classy lady.

    September 7, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. Alan Houston

    I truly respect former first Lady, Laura Bush, for defending the president's speech to school children in the US. She is unequivocally right in stating that people need to respect the office of the President of the USA.

    Conservatives and right wingers need to heed her advise, or pay the price of being labelled as racists and disptached to the "dust bin" of History.

    September 7, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. ja

    Kudos Mrs Bush, much of America is full of hypocrisy, when it comes to President Obama, many feel that the presidency is reserve for one race, major job losses, markets down, two wars being fought, the children should be addressed directly, they are the future

    September 7, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Matt

    I find it hilarious how many people are claiming that the government should have no say in their children's education. Unless every single one of these people sends their kids to private school, they should be reminded that the government runs every aspect of their child's public education, no matter who the president happens to be.

    September 7, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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