Laura Bush Headshot

Laura W. Bush

Standing Ovation Award

While Laura W. Bush is known throughout the nation and the world as a significant supporter of the arts, her public involvement in the arts community began in Texas. Throughout her husband’s term as Governor of Texas, she enjoyed showcasing the works of Texas artists at the Governor’s Mansion and State Capitol in Austin, Texas. In 2002, the Laura W. Bush Endowment for Education and Outreach at the Austin Museum of Art was established to give children more opportunities to experience the arts.

As a former teacher and librarian, Mrs. Bush’s love for children and for literature is apparent in much of her work in the arts. In 1995, Mrs. Bush founded the Texas Book Festival to pay tribute to Texas authors, to encourage Texans to read and to support public libraries. In 2001, she took her book festival idea to the national level, teaming up with the Library of Congress to launch the first National Book Festival.

On the national level, Mrs. Bush has served as honorary chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts in Humanities as well as encouraged and supported many art programs. Some of her public roles include serving as co-chair of the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Shakespeare in America Program, announcing the launch of the Global Cultural Initiative to enhance U.S. cultural diplomacy efforts, and serving as honorary chair of the NEA’s “Big Read” program, which has now reached beyond the United States to Russia, Pakistan and Egypt.

Mrs. Bush developed the White House Salute to America’s Authors, a series of literary events honoring some of our country’s most significant authors, among them Mark Twain, writers from the Harlem Renaissance and women authors of the American West. She collaborated on a children’s book titled “Read All About It” with her daughter, Jenna. She also extends her passion for the arts to at-risk youth by having presided over the Coming Up Taller Awards, which recognizes and supports outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people and provide learning opportunities and chances to contribute to their communities.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Mrs. Bush looked for ways to show the nation how to heal through the power of the arts. She encouraged children to write down their thoughts or draw pictures to express their feelings about the national tragedy. She also helped the Kennedy Center present a concert of remembrance and spoke at the opening of the National Museum of American History’s exhibition, September 11, 2001: Bearing Witness to History.

Mrs. Bush has also worked with several other nations to strengthen their own arts communities, and through her interaction with them, she has brought the world closer together. In 2003, Mrs. Bush played an integral part in bringing the Iraqi National Orchestra to perform at the Kennedy Center in a joint concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. After visiting Pakistan and meeting with President and Mrs. Musharraf in 2006, Mrs. Bush teamed up with the Kennedy Center to revitalize Pakistan’s arts infrastructure by working with their arts leaders to rebuild damaged facilities and undercapitalized arts organizations and launching a website about Pakistani culture. Also thanks to Mrs. Bush’s cultural diplomacy, the Smithsonian Institute is helping to provide thousands of key art leaders around the world with arts management training.

We are blessed to call her one of our own. A Texan, an incredible advocate for the arts, reaching across all boundaries and borders to open doors and raise awareness of the gift the arts provide our children, our nation and the world.

To watch an interview with Mrs. Bush on the importance of the arts, please click here.