Former first lady Laura Bush: Knowledge of history basis for 'engaged citizenship'
Jordan Buie, The Tennessean
March 15, 2017, marks 250 years since Andrew Jackson's birth.
NASHVILLE — From the tumultuous days after Sept. 11, 2001, to the strange return to normalcy after her husband's presidency, former first lady Laura Bush on Wednesday shared personal stories from her life that fell in between the headlines of history.
Bush offered her behind-the-scenes perspective during the 117th annual Spring Outing at The Hermitage, the Nashville home of President Andrew Jackson.
“The knowledge and understanding of American history is the basis of intellectual inquiry, engaged citizenship and national pride," Bush told roughly 700 people who attended the event. "And through the educational programs at The Hermitage, the Andrew Jackson Foundation is teaching our nation’s history to over 30,000 students and 200,000 visitors a year. And for that, I am grateful."
In Jackson, Bush said America can learn about a key figure in a tumultuous time in American politics, saying the nation's seventh president changed government and made the presidency as powerful as Congress.
March marked the 250th anniversary of Jackson's birth and Hermitage CEO Howard J. Kittell said the foundation wanted a keynote speaker, such as a first lady, who understood the experience of being within the presidential circle.
"Part of our goal is to remind people that this isn't just a historic house, it's a presidential home," Kittell said.
Bush's visit to The Hermitage marks the second high-profile visit this year. During a stop in Nashville on Jackson's March 15 birthday, President Trump toured the mansion and placed a wreath on Jackson's tomb.
The former first lady said her time in the White House was an honor that offered a variety of unexpected challenges and even amusements.
Early on, she said she was questioned about whether she wanted to be Barbara Bush or Hillary Clinton and was even pegged with the identity of a 1950s housewife because she decided keep a lot of her opinions to herself.
But two causes Bush embraced and championed were literacy and education.
"I believed that every child deserves a quality education and that cultural literacy is a foundation to democracy," she said.
"In was an honor to meet the voices those times called for, presidents and prime ministers, but there was not greater honor than to meet the first responders who rescued people in New York and Washington," she said.
Bush's speech was the highlight of The Hermitage's yearlong celebration of Jackson's birthday. Additional Jackson-themed events are planned locally as well as at sites across the country that have ties to the president, including the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and the National Museum of the American Indian.
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