DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The George W. Bush Presidential Center held its second conference featuring the role and historic significance of the First Ladies of the United States on Monday.
Two First Ladies were present at SMU for the event: Mrs. Laura and Mrs. Barbara Bush shared the stage reflecting on their experiences in the White House. Former President Geroge W. Bush introduced his wife and mother.
“I have the honor of introducing the best First Lady ever,” Mr. Bush said with a smile. “Mom will you take a tie”?
Pulitzer Prize winner and Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin moderated the candid conversation. The powerful women shared personal stories from behind the scenes, as only a First Lady could.
Many of the stories garnered laughter from the packed SMU auditorium.
Laura Bush spoke of how her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, loved to play on a particluar bed in the White House and would later share those ins and outs with President Barack Obama’s children.
“You could make a running jump to the one antique bed that was so tall that it required steps,” said Laura Bush. “Barbara and Jenna could run and jump on it at that age and when the Obama’s took the tour they showed Sasha and Malea all the tricks.”
Both former First Ladies talked about making the 132-room White House feel like a home.
“I loved my little office,” said Barbara Bush, “which besides being Nancy Reagan’s beauty parlor, which she didn’t like me to say but it was, the dogs were born there.”
And while most of the conversation was humorous and light hearted, both former First Ladies talked about being in the White House at times of war.
“As First Lady, you think of the challenges our country has faced and what we’ve overcome,” said former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush. “It’s comforting to know that we can overcome things like 9/11, and there’s a great continuity of living in the house where all of the presidents have lived.”
The position of First Lady doesn’t come with a job description, but it carries prestige and provides a platform to address social and global issues, which both women continue to do.
Laura Bush spoke of a time when it really sunk in that she had a listening audience.
“I went shopping and women at the department store said, ‘Thank you for all you do for the women in Afghanistan,’ and that’s when it hit me people do hear the First Lady,” she said.
Moderator Doris Kerans Goodwin spoke with the women about politics today and the upcoming presidential election.
When asked about the negative language and discourse in Washington D.C. Mrs. Barbara Bush replied, “It’s been the worst campaign I think I’ve ever seen in my life. I just hate it. I hate the fact that people think compromose is a dirty word. It is not a dirty word.”
Journalist Cokie Roberts, Catherine Allgor, Professor of History and UC Presidential Chair at the University of California at Riverside, Allida Black, executive editor of the fdr4freedoms Digital Initiative and the founder of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, and Amity Shlaes, the director of the 4% Project at the George W. Bush Institute also took part in the conference.
The next conference is schedule for this November at the LBJ Library in Austin.