Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush

Spoken from the HeartI really do enjoy reading the occasion recent political biography, and this was not the exception to the rule. My only problem is that former First Lady Laura Bush is just too darned nice. She seemed to find it extraordinarily difficult to say an unkind word about anyone, except perhaps Saddam Hussein and one particularly nasty reporter, who wrote the story he'd determined to write no matter what she said during the interview.

She really sounds just like your favorite second grade teacher ever, which is unsurprising, given that she worked as a schoolteacher and school librarian long before she met and married George. She really seems to be one of those people who aren't much affected by being in a position of power and influence, other than to use that power to try to better the lives of others, in her case mostly the plights of women without rights, illiteracy around the world, AIDs victims in Africa, and education and opportunity for neglected urban children.

Once the book moves from the early chapters about growing up in Midland, Texas, into her husband's political campaigns for governor of Texas and the U.S. presidency, it really turns into a whirlwind tour. Either Mrs. Bush was an extremely thorough diarist or she had great people on her staff to record every little detail of her schedule and travels. She talks about meeting with world leaders, both at home and abroad, and the conversations with a widely diverse group of "first ladies" on nearly every continent.

She's extremely well read - again, she was a librarian - and had a great appreciation for arts and culture, not just American, but everything she encountered in her travels. She worked with other leaders around the world to promote cultural exchanges and encourage literary festivals and gatherings of artists and authors, in every possible venue.

Some obligatory quotes about books:

"And she (Laura's mother) read to me, her voice weaving its spells of character, plot, and place, until I too yearned to decipher the fine black letters printed on the page. Once I did, I read with my friends, swapping well-thumbed copies of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and Nancy Drew..."

"Our country's authors have helped forge the American identity, create its memory, and define and reinforce our national consciousness...Books have done what humans rarely do, convince us to put down the remote control."

And for you Idahoans out there:

"Bamiyan (Afghanistan) has for years been a rich potato-growing region. But local farmers now (due to lack of electricity) had no storage facilities for their crops...Then an Idaho potato farmer recalled how his own grandparents had stored their potatoes, in a simple dugout cellar. He taught Afghan farmers to do the same."

I found this to be an enjoyable read, filled with rich detail and uplifting stories.

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