Laura Bush Aiding Clinton Conference

Associated Press | September 14, 2006
By Jennifer Loven


Another member of the Bush family is getting cozy with former President Clinton. 

First lady Laura Bush joins the former president as a keynote speaker opening his three-day Clinton Global Initiative in New York next week. 

Clinton has famously formed a close friendship with the current president's dad. Clinton has been a repeat guest at the Kennebunkport, Maine, home of George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. 

Clinton also sparked curiosity when he was spotted at the White House last month. It turns out that he and the current president were having lunch, something White House aides said they do occasionally. 

Now, aware of Laura Bush's involvement in issues that his foundation addresses, Clinton called several months ago to solicit her participation in the conference, said Anita McBride, her chief of staff. 

Laura Bush agreed, hoping to tell people about the good that their tax dollars are doing and to persuade other nations of the United States' good intentions. 

"We've got a good story to tell. We've got something to say," McBride said. "We've got something to show that we are not only as Americans a compassionate and generous country and she wants Americans to know that they're making a difference." 

This year's Clinton Global Initiative is a follow-up to the 2005 event that brought $2.5 billion in pledges to help solve challenges such as the HIV infection in Africa. 

The first lady's speech next Wednesday will cover topics such as literacy and education, AIDS and women's rights that she has highlighted in her travels. They include 11 solo trips to 27 countries in the nearly six years of her husband's presidency. 

She also is bringing a pledge of her own: the announcement of a partnership between the Bush administration and an American foundation to help provide clean drinking water in Africa _ a key component to improving health on the poverty-stricken continent. 

McBride would say only that the project involves providing water- cleansing equipment for some of sub-Saharan Africa's most problem- ridden areas. She would not disclose details such as the dollar amount or the foundation partner. 

While accompanying her husband to New York for the U.N. General Assembly next week, Laura Bush is hosting her own conference, on global literacy. She is the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the Decade of Literacy. 

In addition, the first lady is doing her part to promote the administration's agenda on Myanmar. 

She is holding a discussion with U.S., U.N. and nongovernmental organization representatives on the situation in the Southeast Asian nation that the administration has criticized for its repressive policies and detention of a pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The country, also known as Burma, is known for violence against the ethnic Karen minority and a growing refugee problem. 

U.S. officials, pessimistic about the prospects for Security Council action against Myanmar's military junta, hope Laura Bush's involvement can help.