First lady urges U.S. to be vigilant

Parents must comfort fearful children, she says

December 29, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Laura Bush said yesterday that Americans must stay vigilant not only in preparing for possible terrorist attacks but also in comforting their children as fears of terrorism increase.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, the first lady discussed her National Book Festival, public service and education efforts across the country.

"We have to keep comforting our children, but we also have to be very vigilant as American citizens as we go about our work and our business," Bush said.

She appeared with Caroline Kennedy, who helps raise money for public schools in New York.

Bush and Kennedy spoke of finding common political ground to promote education and public service.

Bush said: "American people expect our leaders and all politicians who are here to do America's business, you know, to work together, to do what's right for our country. And it happens." She pointed to the Bush administration's education law, which was approved in 2001, as an example of bipartisan legislation.

Bush also discussed her husband's trip to Iraq, saying that at first she was "very anxious," but sorry that she could not go with him. The president, accompanied by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, made the surprise visit to U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day. "By the time it really happened, that Wednesday night when he and Condi got in the van to drive off from the ranch house, I was not nervous," Bush said.

She said she realized how well-kept a secret the visit had been when she called the head of her Secret Service detail to find out whether the president had landed in Baghdad.

"And he said, `Well, we show him at the residence,' " Bush said. "And I realized that even the head of my detail didn't know that he was there."

Bush said she hopes to travel to Afghanistan this spring. She met recently with Afghan teachers at the White House to discuss education in Afghanistan.

Bush's television appearance offered a glimpse into the personal life of a first lady who has been particularly private. She briefly discussed her twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, saying she regretted a comment suggesting that she wanted to be a grandmother. "I don't want to put any pressure on them."

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