FORMER FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH
HONORARY CHAIRMAN – 2019 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition & Festival
Laura Bush’s lifetime commitment to education on the highest level continues in this association with the Cliburn Junior Competition, which is designed to encourage the artistic development of the greatest pianistic talent of tomorrow from around the globe. As the Cliburn hosts a major program in Dallas for the first time ever—the majority of which will be held on the campus of SMU—we are thrilled to have Mrs. Bush, a resident of the city and proud alumna of the University, lend her name. She also held a longtime friendship with our inspiration and namesake, Van Cliburn, making this connection particularly special.
—Jacques Marquis, president and CEO
Laura Bush, former First Lady of the United States, is an advocate for literacy, education, and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Center is home to the Bush Presidential Museum and Library and the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy center established to solve today’s most pressing challenges by developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action. As Chair of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, Mrs. Bush promotes access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for women and girls around the world.
As First Lady, Mrs. Bush advocated the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and to foster healthy families and communities. She highlighted the importance of preparing children to become lifelong learners, convening a White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development in 2001 and a White House Conference on School Libraries in 2002. Laura Bush has visited schools around the world and met with students in nations from Afghanistan to Zambia, with a particular focus on the education of girls and women. Mrs. Bush worked with the Library of Congress to create the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2001. The National Book Festival continues to this day and annually attracts more than 120,000 Americans. The Texas Book Festival in Austin was co-founded in 1996 by Mrs. Bush while she was First Lady of Texas. At the Bush Institute in Dallas, President and Mrs. Bush’s Education Reform initiative works to improve student achievement through effective school leadership, middle school transformation, and the use of accountability.
Mrs. Bush is the author of the bestselling memoir, Spoken From the Heart, and bestselling children’s book, Our Great Big Backyard. She serves on many boards, including the National Advisory Board for the Salvation Army, the Council for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Board of Trustees for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the SMU Board of Trustees.
Laura Bush was born in Midland, Texas, to Harold and Jenna Welch. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas. She taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston, and Austin and worked as a public school librarian. She served as First Lady of Texas from 1995 to 2000.
President and Mrs. Bush are the proud parents of twin daughters Barbara and Jenna, son-in-law Henry Hager, and happy grandparents to Margaret Laura “Mila” & Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, and rescue puppy, Freddy.