Laura Bush: Life in Dallas Has Been a 'Slow Adjustment'

President Bush is reading from a Kindle, the electronic book reader that Vice President Cheney gave him for Christmas, while Mrs. Bush said she is "struggling" to get familiar again with e-mail and does not have a BlackBerry.


At the White House, Mrs. Bush made support for Afghanistan's women -- who endured brutal repression under the Taliban regime -- one of her signature issues. She traveled three times there, including two solo trips without the president. Previously, no first lady had ever stepped foot in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Bush said she hoped to return to Afghanistan, but for now, she is watching closely to see what the Obama administration does in the region.

So far, she is encouraged by his commitment to Afghanistan and hopes that the government and the American people continue to support rebuilding efforts there.

She said there are "encouraging signs" out of Afghanistan, as well, but the United States must continue to have a presence there, working with the Afghan people and government to rebuild what she called "a failed state."

"What we see is it's very easy to destroy something, but very, very difficult to rebuild," she said. "And that's what we're watching now."

As first lady, Mrs. Bush visited more than 70 countries, bringing awareness to issues like women's rights, education and prevention of HIV/AIDS and malaria.

The opportunity she had to represent the American people abroad is one aspect of the White House that she said she misses. She plans to remain active on her signature issues through the Freedom Institute that will be a part of former President Bush's library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"The Freedom Institute isn't just freedom from tyranny, although that will be a central part of it, but also freedom from disease, freedom from poverty, and freedom from illiteracy," she said.

From One First Lady to Another

Despite the unique bond she will share with first lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Bush said she did not offer any advice but did talk with her about building a life in the White House and making it a home. Mrs. Bush said she was well aware of the difficulties of establishing a private life with a public that is eager to scoop up any morsel of news the first family makes.

"I think it really does require a very careful balance of the private life that the family wants who live there, and certainly the children who live there, and then the recognition that the public is very, very interested in everything you do.

"I mean [the public is interested in] everything -- from, you know, bringing coffee to bed in the morning to the new dog you're going to get," she said laughing. "You know, those are the things that people really are interested in."

Mrs. Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were already in college when the Bushes moved into the White House in 2001, but she understood the concerns that Mrs. Obama has now about protecting her daughters from the spotlight.

"I know that that is what she is most concerned with right now, of course, like any mother would be when you move your children to a new home, and especially that home where it's such a fishbowl and where everything that anyone who lives there [does] gets on the front page of every newspaper or in every magazine."

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