Laura Bush on Civics: We Need to ‘Not Be Embarrassed About Teaching It’

Former first lady Laura Bush speaks at a forum

WASHINGTON – Former first lady Laura Bush said educators should be “proud” of America’s history and its democratic institutions and not be “embarrassed” about teaching civics to children.

“Our children don’t learn, and the numbers are just horrible of what people don’t know. And it is wonderful when we have these naturalization ceremonies here [at the National Archives] in front of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence – those people have all actually had to learn it,” Cokie Roberts, moderator of the discussion, said to Bush, referring to new U.S. citizens who are required to pass a civics exam.

“Well, we need to teach it more. I think we went through, sort of, a stage where we were embarrassed about ourselves, like, we were trying to act like we’re better or something. But the fact is we are so, so lucky to have inherited the institutions that we inherited and all the ones that support our democracy, and it’s really important for people to know about them and to be proud of it – why not be proud of it?” Bush said after accepting a “Records of Achievement Award” from the National Archives Foundation on Wednesday evening during a ceremony at the National Archives.

“One of the things we’re working on with women from Tunisia and Egypt – and we started at the Bush Institute with women from those two countries because they were the two Arab Spring countries, but they don’t have the institutions to support a democracy. And it’s been very hard and both countries have sort of slid back and we inherited those institutions. We didn’t have to do anything for them,” she added.

Bush continued, “We were just lucky to get them and it’s really important, I think, for people to know that and to know about them. The reason we can have a democracy is because we have those institutions – the free press, the independent judiciary, I mean, all the things that we have. And so I think it’s important that we teach that and we need to go back and not be embarrassed about teaching it… We need to get it on the test, and if it’s on the test they’ll teach it.”

Mrs. Bush’s daughter Barbara got married to actor and screenwriter Craig Coyne last weekend in a private ceremony in Kennebunkport, Maine.  Bush discussed the wedding with Roberts, revealing that Barbara’s uncles, including Jeb Bush, were not invited to the gathering.

“Keeping it secret, not good. How did you manage it?” Roberts said to Bush.

“Well, I think Barbara just kept it a secret, plus, so few people were invited. It was just our family and Craig’s family and it didn’t include Jeb or Neil or any of those other uncles, so it was really just our family. She wanted to get married there because that’s where her grandfather is and she wanted to be with him, and so we had a wedding outside looking at the ocean and then we went in and had dinner at the dining room table,” Bush said.

“There were 20 of us at the dining room table so it was just perfect. So it was Barbara and Craig, her new husband who we like a lot, and his family and our family and the little flower girls were Mila, Jenna’s little girl, and Emma, Craig’s niece, and the ringbearer was Poppy, who was very proud of being a ringbearer,” she added.