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Michelle Tessier/Deseret News

Criticism 'bothered me, but didn't get to me," Laura Bush tells Provo audience

By Morgan Jacobsen | Posted - Jun. 30, 2014 at 7:27 a.m.

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PROVO — Thousands gathered at Brigham Young University's Marriott Center Sunday to listen to a keynote address given by former First Lady Laura Bush.

She recalled what life was like living in the White House and being alongside her husband while he served as president. While there were many people who heartily supported her and her husband, there were also times when public ridicule was inescapable, she said.

"One of the many questions I was asked was, 'How could you stand it? ... Didn't it make your blood boil to read and watch this constant flood of criticism and invective?'" she recalled. "Of course it bothered me, just as it would bother anyone in this room. It bothered me, but it didn't get to me."

Indeed, thousands in the room were bothered when a young man in the audience stood up and began shouting insults at the First Lady and her husband. The audience quickly booed the man and gave Bush a standing, cheering ovation after the man was escorted out.

Bush appeared to be unmoved by the man's comments. She later explained how she overcomes the at times fierce criticism her family has to endure.

"For one thing, I know who I am and I know who George is," she said. "For another, this is America. And America hangs on the proposition of what those of us in the White House sometimes receive as a chorus of complaint (when it) is in reality a kind of sacred music, or at least the clanking of gears of democracy."

Freedom Festival
Bush's address was part of a "Patriotic Service" hosted by America's Freedom Festival in Provo, a nonprofit foundation that seeks to "celebrate, teach, honor, and strengthen the traditional American values of family, freedom, God, and country," according to the foundation's website. Other events, including the Stadium of Fire fireworks show, will be hosted by the foundation throughout the coming week.

The event featured performances by the 23rd Army Band, including "The Star Spangled Banner," "Stars and Stripes Forever," and other medleys.

Jeremiah Edwards, 16, a youth speech contest winner from Holladay, also spoke at the event.

"When it comes to our fight for freedom, it can be easy to be discouraged if we fail to recognize that we hold the power," he said. "The government is a creation of the people, and the federal government is a creation of the state. It's not the other way around."

Gov. Gary Herbert, while introducing Bush, thanked her for the many elements of service she has performed.

"Wherever Mrs. Bush serves, whatever her role or the task that she undertakes, she lightened others' load and shines a new spotlight on the pressing issues of our time," he said. "And we here in Utah, along with others across the country, are the beneficiaries of her legacy of outstanding public service."

With a background in education and library science, Bush spoke of how her efforts to improve literacy worldwide have overlapped with her passion for freedom.

"I believe that every child in America should learn to read," she said. "I believe that literacy is an essential foundation for democracy. And from my own experience as a reader and a librarian, I know that books have the power not just to move people as individuals, but to shape our journey as a country."


Morgan Jacobsen


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