Laura Bush: First Feminist?

First lady Laura Bush identified herself as a "feminist" on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," tacitly agreeing with noted historian Carl Anthony, who has suggested her efforts to educate women in all parts of the world have sparked a new kind of "international feminism."

"A lot of what I do internationally does have to do with women's issues, with women's rights, with the education of women and girls," the first lady said in a Mother's Day appearance on "This Week," "because it's so important and because women -- as we saw in Afghanistan -- and girls have been left out, actually forbidden to be educated."

The former librarian has used much of her clout during her husband's administration to advocate education and reading intiatives for girls and boys, alike.

"You can't tell me that mothers and fathers don't love their daughters," she said. "I know they do and want the best thing for their daughters and their sons the world over. I truly believe that. And if women are educated, then they're more likely to be able to make wise and healthy decisions for their children."

The 43rd president's wife has also been busy at home, most significantly traveling to the Gulf Coast 11 times in an effort to rebuild 1,100 schools devestated by Hurricane Katrina.

"It's certainly among the most important work that I'm doing right now, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast," she said. "If there are good schools, then families can start coming back, put their kids in school there."

Schools, she said, may be one of the best means of bringing lost communities back together.

"Schools can supply counselors," she added. "Schools are a very good site for counselors to come to work with children that need help. There are a lot of problems of every kind."

Not surprisingly, Bush deflected criticism of her husband, who is currently experiencing the worst approval ratings of his presidency.

"We've had a very, very difficult year, starting with the hurricane last September," she said.

"He has to make hard choices. He's the one that has to make the hard decisions. And, of course, they don't please everyone," she added.

Bush deflected questions regarding the recent changes in President Bush's administration team, saying her travels have shown her that the country is focused on other matters.

"When you live here in [the White House], you are so aware of other families that lived here and other challenges our country has faced. And so, I have a lot of optimism that we will be able to face these challenges, and the world will be better afterwards."

Despite her husband's recent poll woes, the first lady remains as popular as ever, with approval ratings in the 60s.

Stephanopoulos, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, asked whether her popularity and her husband's troubles have factored into his presidency.

"I see the bad poll numbers on the front page of the newspaper," Bush admitted, but countered quickly, "Back when poll numbers were good I don't think they put them on the front page, but now the bad ones are there."

When pressed by Stephanopoulos, Mrs. Bush declined to call the press "unfair" but chided gently, "I think they may be enjoying this a little bit."

As the clock winds down on the president's second term, his wife said she too feels a sense of urgency to make the most of the next two years.

"I want to make sure that I'm effective, that something happens, that I can be constructive and productive for our country," she said. "You feel a real obligation when you live (in the White House) to do that."

The Bushes, parents of twin daughters Barbara and Jenna, hope to enjoy Mother's Day at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the woods of Maryland.

"I won't be with my children, sadly," Laura Bush said. "They won't be there with me.

"But, we go to church with the troops that are stationed in Camp David," she added. "And we've gotten to know their children from the Christmas pageant, when the little children are dressed up as shepherds or angels. And it'll be fun to get to be with them and their mothers."

View George Stephanopoulos's entire interview with first lady Laura Bush on the "This Week" Web page at