Washington, D.C. - Michelle Obama and Laura Bush joined forces on Friday for their bipartisan initiative to honor our nation’s veterans. The two took part in an hourlong conversation in the National Archives building for the "First Ladies: In Service to Our Nation," moderated by ABC’s Bob Woodruff. The discussion centered on their time in the White House, as well as the efforts they are pursuing to take care of our returning soldiers. As you’ll see, the two first ladies got pretty candid in sharing what life was like at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during the Iraq War.
What was it like to be First Lady knowing your husband was responsible for these soldiers’ lives? Woodruff first asked Mrs. Bush.
“You worry every single day,” she said.
While she was in the “lap of luxury” in the White House, where the sheets are changed every night, she and her husband would lie in bed knowing America’s brave men and women were laying on the ground somewhere.
“You think about them every night.”
Mrs. Obama jumped in, noting that she and Barack would often visit veterans in the hospital. Their visits, she said, used to last hours, but now they’re only 30 minutes because fewer men and women are being injured.
“That feels good,” she said.
“Meeting service members changes who you are as a civilian,” she continued. “Here we are sitting in the White House – we have no right to complain. I will always champion these men and women as long as I can breathe.”
Mrs. Obama said she has been especially moved by meeting military spouses and learning about their unique challenges, such as having to move their kids every two years.
Having children in the White House during a time of war adds another challenge, Woodruff noted. How did the first ladies help see their kids through such an emotional period?
Mrs. Bush said Barbara and Jenna were at college at the time, yet the weekend after 9/11 they came home “because they wanted to be with their dad.”
“No one talked about war,” Mrs. Bush noted. “That wasn’t the conversation. You don’t want them to be worried about decisions their father makes.”
“You just want home to be home,” Mrs. Obama agreed. “You want them to have that refuge.”
Life after the White House has also provided Mrs. Bush and the 43rd president the opportunity to meet with veterans. Mrs. Bush beamed when sharing how her husband often paints portraits for veterans, but always makes sure to include their families in the pictures because they often rely on their loved ones for support. She recalled one man with a severe head injury, for instance, whom Bush painted with a scar, yet also included the man's child on his lap. The former president painted another veteran with his wife because the soldier credited her with his recovery.
Townhall will go into more detail about the First Ladies initiatives for veterans in a later post.