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Laura Bush on immigration: U.S. should be a ``welcoming country.'' Not asked about Stephen Colbert


First Lady Laura Bush, a librarian, is in New Orleans today to help rebuild school libraries. She was booked on the morning shows today ...
Bush tells Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson (in separate interviews) she thought the line about her being ``hot'' and muy caliente at Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner was very funny. And no, Couric and Gibson did not ask about Stephen Colbert.

Laura Bush on NBC, ABC and Fox News....


Office of the First Lady


For Immediate Release May 3, 2006



Jackson Square

New Orleans

7:22 A.M. CDT

Q And today First Lady Laura Bush will announce the first grants for rebuilding school libraries in the Gulf region that were destroyed by hurricanes. The First Lady joins us now from New Orleans. It's great to have you back with us.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much, E.D.

Q So, tell us about this. Louisiana has such a rich history, and I know that many of these libraries contained old and rare collections of books, some of them the entire collection of Life Magazines going back decades. How are you helping out the libraries?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Well, the Chalmette High School, where I'll be later this morning to announce all the different grants, did have a collection from the '30s of Life Magazine. They used these as primary sources when their high school students studied American history. They could read these magazines as the lead up to World War II and really see what America was like during that time. And that was one of the saddest things they lost, when they lost their whole library.

So today they will be receiving a grant from the Laura Bush Foundation to restock the library. And then the great news is Time Warner, someone from Time Warner will be there who has gone back and gotten all of those Life Magazines since the '30s to be able to present to Chalmette High School. So that's very exciting.

One other really great thing about this high school that I'm going to visit is how one school superintendent, Doris Volitier, just went to work right after the hurricane, right after the flood waters went down in St. Bernard Parrish, and rebuilt this high school. She opened it in November. She thought maybe 50 to 100 kids would come back, but instead many more children came, both high school and elementary school age, because she was only able to open the one school.

Now there are more than 600 kids back. They want to be back in their own schools. So this fall St. Bernard Parrish is going to -- Chalmette is going to open an elementary school. And that's good news. That shows that people are coming back. When kids are coming back to school, then you know families are moving back to the Gulf Coast.

Q So the Laura Bush Foundation will award grants to these schools, and there will be a second round of grants by the end of the summer.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. We're awarding ten grants today, three in Mississippi, seven in Louisiana, to schools that are ready to restock their school libraries. And then as other schools are rebuilt, as they're ready to restock, they need to go ahead and apply. And we should have another round of grants next fall, I hope.

Q I talk to you, and of course I know that you're the First Lady, but you're also a pretty regular person like the rest of us. (Laughter.) When you were watching television -- I know it's hard to do in your position, but when you were watching television on Monday, and you saw the protests and the rallies for the extended rights for illegal immigrants, what was your reaction?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think we have to do something about immigration. We need to have a humane and sensitive immigration policy, and we need to work on that to make sure people don't die in the desert as they cross Texas or Arizona because they are coming in illegally. We need to figure out a way to have legal immigration, including a guest worker program like the President has suggested, that will give people a legal way to be in the United States so they can go back home to Mexico and they can come back in for jobs without worry of having to sneak in across the desert.

Our country is a country of immigrants. We nearly all are immigrants, and our families came at different times for different reasons, a lot of them political, from around the world. And I think we need to be a welcoming country. On the other hand, I think people who have stood in line to become legal citizens should not be preempted by other people. I think we should have an orderly and legal, obviously, citizenship process.

Q All right, well, we appreciate your time this morning. And wonderful that you're using your celebrity, your position to do such great things for these Gulf Coast schools. Thank you.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks a lot.

END 7:27 A.M. CDT

Office of the First Lady


For Immediate Release May 3, 2006



Jackson Square

New Orleans, Louisiana

7:35 A.M. CDT

Q It is good to have you here. And Mrs. Bush, I was --

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Charlie.

Q I was stunned by the numbers. I just mentioned 1,100 schools damaged, washed away. That is an enormous number of books.

MRS. BUSH: It's enormous. It's also an enormous number of schools. It's unprecedented, really, for school district superintendents and state school officers to have to rebuild this many school districts. So they -- we all know they need a lot of help from everybody, every way they can, and I'm really happy that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries is making grants to ten schools today -- seven in Louisiana and three in Mississippi. These are schools that are rebuilt and they're ready to restock their libraries. And to stock a school library is not inexpensive. A good elementary school library, basic collection, costs about $50,000, and a good high school collection costs about $100,000. So they will be getting --

Q Yes, I'm sort of a --

MRS. BUSH: Go ahead.

Q -- freak for numbers, and when I saw those numbers in the White House material, just multiplying by the number of schools, if you just take that basic $50,000 figure, if you assume that every school is an elementary school, $50,000 to restock a library, and 1,100 schools, that's $56 million worth of books. And that's just an enormous amount to do.

MRS. BUSH: It's a huge amount, it really is. Not, of course, all of these schools, the 1,100 that were damaged are destroyed. Some were only -- had a little bit of damage. A lot of libraries were not totally destroyed, but some were. And today, we'll be at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish. That's a very heroic story. Their great superintendent, Doris Voitier, determined that she was going to rebuild their high school so kids could come back. It had been flooded totally on the first floor, but when the flood waters went down, she started the restoration, and she opened the school on November 14th, expecting about 50 or 100 kids. And instead, now she has 600. So she will open an elementary school this fall, so both the elementary school and Chalmette High School will be receiving grants to restock their library.

Q It's interesting you mentioned Chalmette. That's, as you mentioned, in St. Bernard Parish. And this is a school that actually, as you mentioned, put itself back together. If they had waited, frankly, for federal help, it would have been months later. They did it on their own.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, she did it on her own. She's a go-getter, and she just started rebuilding, and then she billed FEMA. (Laughter.)

Q She's going to bill FEMA later, is that what she's going to do?

MRS. BUSH: She did bill FEMA, that's right.

Q Well, this is a very worthy effort, and I know there are many more schools to be done, and I suspect your foundation is going to be very active in doing them. And this is certainly worthy, as I say, and to be congratulated for doing that.

This is a little impertinent to ask, but I just want to make sure, is it actually Laura Bush I'm talking to, or are you an impersonator?

MRS. BUSH: It's really me. That was funny.

Q It was very --

MRS. BUSH: It was very funny.

Q I just want to play a little clip, because we had Steve Bridges on yesterday, who is the fellow who impersonates your husband.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, you did? Great.

Q And he was very nervous about the one line that everybody is talking about.

(Video clip is played.)

Q Steve said he wasn't at all sure he was going to be able to do that line. Did you know it was coming?

MRS. BUSH: No, I didn't know it was coming. I really hadn't seen the whole script. I knew, of course, that George had Steve coming to be his alter-ego, but it was very funny.

Q Well, Steve said that the President had passed on the line, and he said, if it was okay with him, then I guess it was going to be okay with Mrs. Bush. (Laughter.) Anyway, congratulations to you, the foundation doing good work.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much.

Q This is very important, not only books in the -- by the way, you're a former librarian, do you have some favorite books that you would put in libraries?

MRS. BUSH: Well, in children's libraries, of course I put in my sentimental favorites, like Little Women, which my mother read to me before I could read; Dr. Seuss books, like Hop on Pop, which was one of George's favorites to read to the girls, and they took it literally and jumped on him while he read that; of course Good Night Moon, that we read to them as babies. But what we want for these libraries is a big, full collection of fiction and very good, up-to-date non-fiction to support the curriculum of these schools.

Q Absolutely. All right, Mrs. Bush. Thanks very much. By the way, were the twins good in finding the mouse in Good Night Moon?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, they could always find him. That was fun.

Q There's the mouse, there's the mouse. Every night I read that to my daughters, as well. All right, Mrs. Bush.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much, Charlie.

Q Thank you, very much. Good to have you with us.

MRS. BUSH: Bye-bye.

END 7:39 A.M. CDT===============

Office of the First Lady


For Immediate Release May 3, 2006



Jackson Square

New Orleans, Louisiana

7:11 A.M. CDT

Q Mrs. Bush, good morning. Nice to see you, as always.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Katie, good morning.

Q I know that this is your 11th visit to the Gulf region, and while I know you just arrived in New Orleans last night, I'm curious about your impressions in terms of how the recovery efforts are going eight months after Katrina hit.

MRS. BUSH: Well, every time I come, things look better. There's a lot less debris here, so that looks a lot better. There's a lot of traffic, a lot of people going to restaurants. I think Jazz Fest was very popular and very successful last weekend, and then it will be again this weekend.

And then the really good news is that kids are back in school. Later this morning, I'm going to be at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, because they're one of the schools that's receiving a grant to restock their school library. And they opened -- they determined to open last November, even though they were just going to be able to go to school on the second floor of the high school and have all grades on the second floor while they continued to restore the first floor that had flooded. And they thought maybe they'd have 50 to 100 kids, and now they have more than 600, because kids want to go back to their own school.

Q And I know now --

MRS. BUSH: So now, in the fall -- in the fall, they'll --

Q I was just going to say, we can show you touring this school, because I know you visited that school in January, January 26th of this year. But go ahead, I'm sorry to interrupt. You were saying.

MRS. BUSH: And so -- but now they've determined to open an elementary school, so they're going to make sure the elementary school is open in September so they'll have both a high school and an elementary school open. So I'm really --

Q And this is -- go ahead.

MRS. BUSH: -- happy to be here to be able to give these grants to ten school libraries -- seven in New Orleans and three in Mississippi. I'm really happy to be here today to do that. These are ten schools that are back on line now and ready to stock their libraries.

Q Where did the idea for the grants come from, Mrs. Bush?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I had started this foundation back in 2001, because of all the libraries I'd visited during the campaign, and all the many, many schools that I know lack books in their school libraries. And so we were just about to have our final meeting of the leadership council, the people who are the fundraisers for the foundation, last September. And when we met, one person on the council said, let's don't disband, let's keep raising money, and whatever we can raise from now on will go straight to Gulf Coast schools. So I'm really happy to be making about $500,000 worth of grants today.

Q What have you learned, Mrs. Bush, from the residents of the Gulf Coast, in terms of their input? I know a lot of people from New Orleans who are very worried about Katrina fatigue, and of course, many people in the early days and months following the hurricane were upset with the response by the local, state and federal government. What do you think is the most valuable lesson you've been hearing from actual residents on your many visits there?

MRS. BUSH: Well, one thing is that we know it's going to take a long time, and I went out to dinner with friends last night that live in New Orleans and, you know, they're tired, I know they are. But they also are very, very determined. And one of them said, let's stop looking backward, let's start looking forward now, and figure out what we're really going to do.

And a lot of plans are underway. There's housing money now, people can start moving back. I know Secretary Gutierrez, the Secretary of Commerce, is bringing Fortune 500 company heads, as well as many small and medium-sized company heads here later this week to talk about commercial interests so that businesses can move back to New Orleans. I've seen, just by going out to dinner last night, how many businesses are open again. So even though it's going to be a long road, there's a lot of encouragement.

Q And do you feel, looking forward, Mrs. Bush, positive about the level of preparation the government has in place now, given the fact that hurricane season is less than a month away.

MRS. BUSH: Is upon us, that's right. Well, the Army Corps of Engineers say that the levees will be built back by June 1st to pre-Katrina levels. I think Mayor Nagin released his evacuation plan yesterday. What we all learned, the most important lesson, is how state, federal, and local governments need to stay in contact with each other, and have a really, really good system of communication.

And so I think that alone will make a huge difference. We expect probably again more hurricanes. Weather patterns sort of follow a cycle, as we know from last summer and the summer before; we're in a hurricane cycle right now on the Gulf Coast.

Q Meanwhile, your husband and his look-alike, a comedian named Steve Bridges, they were a big hit at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. And one of the funniest lines was when they talked about you. Let's take a quick look and then we'll chat about that.

(Video clip is played.)

Q Mrs. Bush, did you add that line?

MRS. BUSH: No, I didn't, but it is one of the funniest, I think. (Laughter.)

Q Well, they were really funny together, and I think a lot of people enjoyed it and appreciated the President's sense of humor, and yours, as well. Good luck in New Orleans, and thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks a lot, Katie.

END 7:17 A.M. CDT


Really nice of the first lady to be coming out in support of Immigration.

Now, if only the lawmakers would help fix the problems faced by families of Legal Permanent Residents who are unable to be united with their spouses and fix the 'V Visa' problem:

This letter is to bring attention to the plight of our school children at Horace Mann School, 8050 South Jeffery Boulevard. As of May 1, 2006, there will no longer be a Crossing Guard at the intersection of 80th and Jeffery. Due to the reconfiguration of the Dan Ryan construction, Jeffery Boulevard has become an alternative route to Lake Shore Drive, thus increasing the flow of traffic that travels down Jeffery Boulevard. With no Crossing Guard at this intersection, children who have been crossing at this intersection since the beginning of the school year, are now at the mercy of the increased street traffic. There is also another elementary school 6 blocks to the north of Horace Mann school on Jeffery. We are trying to find out who authorized the removal of our Crossing Guard. At a school meeting on Friday, April 28, 2006, no one would confirm who signed off on the order. We are very concerned that a child will get hit or run down because the cars that are traveling past the school are only concerned with making their rush hour trip faster and not what kids are in the roadway. Even with a Crossing Guard, crossing the street is treacherous. However if the Guard is there, no matter how reluctantly, the cars are forced to stop so our kids can safely get across the street and arrive at school in one piece. Please help bring our dilemma to light and get our Crossing Guard returned to our school immediately. Thank you.

Protest should be seen on the other side of the border as well.Thats where the problem starts. The leadership in Mexico appears to be getting a pass on the matter. What about developing opportunities there?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 3, 2006 8:48 AM.

McClellan: Reacts to Sun-Times story on gang members in the U.S. military in Iraq. Bush talks to President Bushir of Sudan on Darfur genocide. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Column: Shameful lack of action on Darfur genocide bill is the next entry in this blog.

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