DALLAS (AP) – A Dallas conference on first ladies will feature two women who have held the post: Laura Bush and her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush.
Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will moderate a conversation with the former first ladies Monday. The conference also will include a discussion with historians on the influence of first ladies throughout history, a panel on the role of social secretaries to first ladies and a discussion by photographers, who will talk about documenting the first ladies.
“People are curious about this person who is closest to the seat of power. What is life like behind the White House walls?” said Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s chief of staff in the White House.
McBride, who’s now an executive-in-residence in the school of public affairs at American University in Washington, is chairing the conference at Southern Methodist University, where former President George W. Bush’s library is under construction.
McBride said that she hopes the conference — a collaboration between the White House Historical Association, American University and the National Archives, which oversees presidential libraries — helps people “gain a broader understanding of the significance of this role.”
“It just is a job description that no one completely understands,” she said. “They each bring their own background, their interests and their knowledge to bear.”
Similar events focusing on other first ladies are being considered, including a conference planned for the fall on the late Lady Bird Johnson at her husband’s presidential library in Austin, McBride said.
“Not every place has a living first lady,” she said. “The idea is to take components of the program to match the interests of the libraries.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will feature a presidential library and policy center, is set to open in spring 2013, though the institute has already started programming.
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