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.