By: Megan Pasquarell, Cave Spring High School
Eight-hundred patrons poured into the Hotel Roanoke ballroom on Nov. 12 for an afternoon lecture on arts and the role of women in leadership by former First Lady Laura Bush. While the Patrick Henry High School Orchestra played background music, women and men of all ages sat down for the ninth annual Women’s Luncheon, which benefitted the Taubman Museum of Art.
As the guests enjoyed a salmon lunch, they settled in for an afternoon unlike any other as Bush took the stage to discuss her past and present projects. She began her lecture humorously, displaying a bobble-head modeled after herself on the podium as she gave an update on her family.
On the subject of her first granddaughter, the former FLOTUS said, “George just wants the baby to call him sir.”
Growing more serious, Bush spoke on her most recent projects. The George W. Bush Women’s Initiative raises the living standards of women and girls by providing leadership skills and health services for women in less-developed nations. The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon movement offers breast and cervical cancer screenings and education for women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. The former President and First Lady also provide help and services to women in leadership around the globe, especially for African-American First Ladies and oppressed women.
Bush also spoke on her love for arts and education. “Every child in America should learn to read,” she stated to a cheering audience.
One of her crowning achievements as FLOTUS was to inaugurate the National Book Festival on Sept. 8, 2001. A solemn Mrs. Bush recalled the events that transpired three days later. The incident on Sept. 11, 2001 sparked her Afghan Women’s Project, which provides leadership skills and networks for oppressed Afghan females.
“Women play a vital role in health, education, and prosperity worldwide,” Bush said. “When women are educated, their families are healthier and their children are in school.”
Following the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush threw the first pitch of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium while Bush worried for her husband’s safety. “I held my breath and reminded myself that this was the job of every President and every American who is willing to take a stand,” she said. “This is America. It hangs on the proposition of democracy with the echoes of citizens.”
“She’s a wonderful woman who has been a great example with her grace,” said Roanoke Native Pat Wilhelms.
The luncheon raised a total of $225,000, compared to $40,000 the past year, through the ticket sales of admiring attendees.