Laura Bush leaves mark at GSU

Tayler Critchlow

Former first lady Laura Bush addressed a sold out crowd at Hanner Fieldhouse Tuesday night where she spoke on her life before, during and after the White House.

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement hosted the event as part of the Student Organization and Leadership Development (SOLD) Workshop Series.

The popularity of the leadership lecture series continues to grow. There was expected to be between 4,800 to 5,000 people at the Evening with Laura Bush event.

Finding her role in the White House 

During her speech, Bush touched on the many ways personal values can influence leadership.

“One of the things that George says about leadership is he thinks that it is easier to be a leader that people will follow if you have specific principles that you develop in your life, and you can develop in a lot of ways through your faith or your family through the culture of your state and the place you live,” Bush said.

The principles Bush said she and her husband followed were:

  • To whom much is given, much is required, Luke 12:48.
  • Every child can learn.
  • Freedom is universal, and the desire to be free is in everyone’s hearts.

Faith-based and community groups can deliver a certain compassion better than the government.

Being married to the leader of a nation provides the first lady with more influence than might be initially realized.

The first time that Bush understood that the people listened to what she had to say was when some department store employees thanked her for her thoughts shared on the radio about Afghanistan’s prevention of women’s education.

Bush experienced many trials during her time at the White House but learned valuable lessons that helped shape her as a leader.

“I learned a lot really. I learned really how very, very fortunate we are in our country,” Bush said. “But I also think of the civil institution that we also inherited that support the democracy that we have, that give us a chance to have the many, many advantages we have.”

Bush spoke of an Egyptian-American woman who she met. Bush said that when she suggested using women’s groups to help start civil institutions in Egypt, the woman said in Egypt there was no freedom of assembly.

“We think freedom of assembly, what does that matter, but it does matter,” Bush said. “We can meet with anybody we want to meet with. We can form groups of any type that we want. Just to imagine that you didn’t have that makes me realize how much we do have here and how much we take for granted.”

Bush advised the audience members to look at their lives and make goals, to look at their schedules and find out what was really important and to not forget to include leisure time and time for friends.  

The GSU community reacts

Bush follows many other political leaders’ footsteps in coming to speak and share their experiences at GSU.

“When your husband is the President you have sort of a natural platform, but I wouldn’t say [Bush] was a spotlight hog. She didn’t step out there and try to be showy. She just did her thing quietly behind the scenes and really made a huge difference,” Todd Deal, Ph.D. and director of the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, said.

Bush spoke on the trials faced while in the White House, particularly 9/11, and gave a personal account of the event.

“That’s real life. You don’t hear about those as much – maybe a feature story every now and then. But as student leaders what I hope that you guys get from it is that this person is just like me, really and truly, and had some opportunities, took advantage of those opportunities,” Deal said.

“Everyone talks about 9/11 from the outside-in perspective, but [Bush] gave the inside-out perspective,” Morgan Wiles, sophomore undeclared, said.

“It was funny, which I didn’t expect,” Bailee Gabrielson, sophomore finance major, said. “I’ve always admired her and liked her opinions.”