Thoughts on America's First Ladies Conference Series

"I was honored to be a part of American University's Legacies of America's First Ladies conference series and reflect on one of the happiest times in our life. Being married to the President of the United States is a tremendous opportunity to serve others, and when George Bush was President we tried to do something every day to make a difference. First ladies have the rare opportunity to have what Lady Bird Johnson called a "bully pulpit."

I applaud American University for bringing together former White House staff, smart historians, journalists, children of presidents, and my favorite former first lady - Laura Bush - to help educate people about the role of first ladies."

- Mrs. Barbara Bush
Former First Lady of the United States

"The Legacies of America's First Ladies conference series is an inside view into the lives of our first ladies. The series showcases how these women used their official role to the benefit of American citizens. Congratulations to Anita McBride, my former chief of staff, who conceived of this program and brought together historians, White House photographers, presidential advisers, and social secretaries to tell the stories through personal accounts of life in the White House. The presidency is about all of the people who join with that president in service to our remarkable nation, from their first lady to the staff who served with them. I appreciate American University and the White House Historical Association for their support of this fascinating series."

- Mrs. Laura Bush
Former First Lady of the United States

"Being responsible for 13 Presidential Libraries, I have been guided in my work by the advice Abigail Adams delivered to her husband in a 1776 letter: "Remember the Ladies." The libraries document the terms of Presidents Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush and contain the papers and artifacts of each of those administrations, including the First Ladies. In fact, as we are learning through the Legacies of America's First Ladies conference series, the full story of those stories of those administration can only be told with this focus on the many roles played by the wives of these Presidents. I am a proud supporter of and participant in the series!"

- David Ferriero
Archivist of the United States

"The 2013 Legacies of America's First Ladies Conference in Grand Rapids was superb. First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush showed why America is so extraordinarily blessed to have had these two remarkable women serve in the White House with such integrity And grace. Their special friendship with Mom, Dad and our family is a gift which we will always cherish."

- Susan Ford Bales
Daughter of Betty Ford and Gerald R. Ford

"It was such a delight for me to participate in this historic series on First Ladies. Not only did I have the chance to lead a discussion with Barbara and Laura Bush, but every participant in the daylong series of panels had fascinating first hand stories to tell. I cannot imagine a better way to promote understanding and interest in the experiences of our First Ladies. I hope this series can continue to grow."

- Doris Kearns Goodwin
Presidential Historian

"We don't know enough about America's First Ladies, many of whom played an indispensible part in presidential history, influencing the culture and embodying the long evolution of women's rights and roles. Anita McBride and her colleagues at American University, greatly aided by several presidential libraries and a stellar cast of scholars, journalists, and real life participants from administrations of both parties, have done a huge public service by re-introducing us to these remarkable women. In rescuing many of them from footnote status, conference organizers have also demonstrated that popular history is no oxymoron - and that the past becomes present when it wears a human face"

- Richard Norton Smith
Presidential Historian

"Legacies of America's First Ladies conferences are filling a cavernous hole in American politics and history. No place else has the crucial role of presidential wives been so thoroughly and entertainingly presented. To have the perspective of the women who have actually held the job is of course invaluable, as are the contributions from family members and staffers. But the conferences also put all of that remarkable first hand experience into context with presentations by historians and other scholars. Finally, thanks to Anita McBride and American University, these women who have made such a difference in American life are getting their due."

- Cokie Roberts
Political commentator & author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty

"Outside of the president himself, nobody has a better understanding of the decisions which await a president every single day than the First Lady. If you want to understand what a president brings to the Oval Office, you need to understand his spouse. American University's outstanding series on the First Ladies illuminates an area of American history that often is overlooked. "The Legacies of America's First Ladies" forums has offered scholars, students and history buffs a unique insight & some fascinating story-telling. Congratulations to AU & Conference Chair Anita McBride for this superb academic endeavor."

- Steve Scully
Senior Political Director, C-SPAN Networks

"Few Americans appreciate the remarkable contributions our first ladies have made to our country and the world. Anita McBride and her able team at American University are working to change that. Through the reflections of historians, East Wing staffers, first family members and first ladies themselves, the Legacies of America's First Ladies conference series sheds light not only on the lives and legacies of our first ladies, but on how the role has evolved since 1789, when the quiet, dutiful Martha Washington stood by her husband's side as he took the nation's helm. American University brought the conference to the LBJ Presidential Library in November 2012, where it proved to be one of the most substantive and popular programs in the institution's 40 year history."

- Mark K. Updegrove
Director, LBJ Presidential Library