Laura Bush Leading on Education and Internationalism

Steve Clemons highlights former first lady Laura Bush's continuing work in promoting education and international engagement.

Steve Clemons highlights former first lady Laura Bush’s continuing work in promoting education and international engagement.

She is an internationalist — and young folks, in fear of burying the lead, you should know that there is a “Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship” administered by the Department of State (Deadline extended to September 26, 2011) that is a great opportunity for young people to work abroad in line with the goals of UNESCO.

Most Americans know Laura Bush as a strong supporter of youth education — and she puts her time and travel into this cause.  Just today, The Education Alliance — a support group of business and community for “public” schools in Charleston, West Virginia — announced that Mrs. Bush would be the keynote speaker of the Alliance’s annual fundraiser on November 9th.

On October 7th, Laura Bush will visit the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District in Texas to attend a ribbon cutting at a middle school named in her honor.  This really impresses me as Charleston while a fine city (and the same goes for Lubbock) doesn’t tend to rank among America’s most acclaimed metropolises.  She is pushing education in a retail way, out in places that too often get overlooked.  Impressive.

What is less known about our former First Lady is how committed she was to international bridge-building and encouraging Americans to connect abroad.

During her tenure in the White House, she made three trips to Afghanistan; traveled to Asia, Europe, Africa, all over the world really.  She is proud to have a passport — and weighed in on key international issues such as women’s rights, educational development, water and resource challenges in the developing world, global health.  She and her husband, George W. Bush, were champions in standing by and increasing the levels of US government aid to Africa on HIV/AIDS.

While the Iraq War will deservedly dominate the historical discussion of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, his most significant achievement in that area was largely done behind the scenes. Among the laundry list of largely unkept promises that litters State of the Union speeches, Bush kept a very important one made in 2003, “I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years … to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.” By 2006, US aid to Africa more than tripled. As a result, as former Senate majority leader Bill Frist noted, 10 million lives were saved. In this area, at least, he lived up to his campaign slogan of “compassionate conservative.”

Like many Americans–and most Republicans–I’m skeptical of aid programs, since most of the money is often skimmed off by thugs and despots, and of the UN which, because these same thugs and despots having equal voting power, is often a vehicle for graft and ineptitude. But UNESCO, UNICEF, and some other purely humanitarian enterprises have been wildly successful and they’re well worth supporting. Not only are we saving and enriching an enormous number of lives, we’re furthering American security interests by bolstering our reputation in a vital part of the world.

One hopes that the Bushes continue their leadership in this area. They’re still relatively young and, as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have both demonstrated, it’s possible to do a lot of good with the stature that comes with being a former US president.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Education, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. steve says:

    The Busy family deserves a lot of credit for this work. Only a much conservative can do this since it would be viewed negatively if a Den did it. Kind or like Nixon going to China.

  2. jan says:

    This was a nice nod, James, towards acknowledging good work, and skipping over the partisan details of which party someone is associated with.

    The Bushes’ have been excoriated, over the years, for many things. But, some of their humanitarian gestures have been all but forgotten, such as GWB’s generous aid to Africa, and Laura Bush’s committment to education.

  3. 11B40 says:


    I’m afraid that I still find all these references to American or national security, while giving away money we either don’t have or have borrowed, incredibly trite, in the “for the children” category.

    I saw a TV program a while back, probably on the Progressive (née Public) Broadcasting System, in which Laura Bush, Melinda (Mrs. Bill) Gates, and a Negro woman who was the CEO of some NGO/Foundation operation were trying, in an absolutely unchallenged way, to sell the idea that dumping more millions into darkest Africa for maternal health” was somehow connected to our national security.

    And trillions of dollars in debt is what exactly? Inconsequential American security- wise? “For the children” who will have to live with that millstone around their economy’s neck?

    How do these people rationalize their compassion impulses with the compulsive power of our profligate government? Sending the tax collectors to other people homes to establish your compassion self-image is a thought problem through which any sophomore should be able to work.

    Another “social justice” success story.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @11B40: Runaway poverty in these places makes criminal enterprises, including piracy, drug trafficking, and terrorism extremely appealing alternatives. $15 billion is a rounding error in our national security budget.

  5. Dan says:

    Wow, Progressive Broadcasting System and Negro (capitalized also? I suppose Negro is part of her title to some) woman in the same post.

  6. 11B40 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Greetings, Mr. Joyner:

    Was it Chairman Mao who said that the liquidation of a $14 trillion debt starts with a $15 billion rounding error.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Was it David Duke who said, “11B40, wow, even I think that guy’s a racist douche.”