With candid stories and warm humor, former First Lady Laura Bush reminded RootsTech 2015 attendees that “all we know we have is now.”
The phrase has important meaning in the Bush family and was used to encourage everyone to cherish the moments we have now. Bush spoke freely of her family throughout the address.
After discussing what everyone in the Bush family was up to, with former President George W. Bush becoming an artist in his retirement and George H. W. Bush skydiving from a plane on his 90th birthday, she went on to relate stories of her family in the White House. Such moments kept her grounded as she lived as a “bobblehead in a bubble,” illustrating her point with a Laura Bush bobblehead on the podium, one given to her from a friend when they found it on a clearance rack after Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Nothing could have prepared us for taking up official residence there,” Bush said of the day they officially moved into White House. But then she added, after nine inaugural balls, “How often does it happen that everyone you love is safe under one roof?”
That sense of safety wasn’t to last. On September 11, 2001, Bush remembered sitting in Ted Kennedy’s office as they watched the horrific scene unfolding in New York. Kennedy, who had already absorbed so much tragedy in his own life, “kept a steady stream of small talk going” before Bush was able to join her husband in the bunker underneath the White House, which she noted looked like it had been furnished during the Truman years.
Though they were later allowed to leave, the family would have to make the trek back down hours later. In the middle of the night, with the fear of a plane was heading to the White House, the Bushes were instructed to go back to the bunker. Without time to put her in contacts, President Bush had to gently led her through the dark, holding her hand.
“Not everyone got to see this side of George W. Bush,” Bush said.
Later on in the program Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, a contributing correspondent on NBC’s Today show and an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, joined her mother for a chat on the sofa.
Questions Jenna asked her mother included:
“What’s it like to be the grandmother to the best baby in America?” (Hager’s young daughter Mila is the first grandbaby for the Bushes.)
“What do you miss the most about the White House?” (The chef, Bush joked. The true answer: the people.)
A theme of the Bushes putting family first was evident. In the end, Bush left the audience with this advice: Make times special, even for yourself. Moments are gone far too quickly.