Michelle Obama, Laura Bush Reunite Again On Africa

irst lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Obama and Bush are coming together for the second time in just over a year to promote U.S. ties to Africa. They’re also deepening the personal ties between two first ladies from different generations and opposing political parties.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, first ladies of different generations and opposing political parties, are uniting for the second time in just over a year to promote U.S. relations with Africa.
They are taking the stage at the Kennedy Center for a program Wednesday with spouses of the dozens of African heads of state and government who are participating in the third and final day of President Barack Obama's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
The two women will share with their African counterparts their experiences in the high-profile role of first lady, reprising an event they held in Tanzania last summer. The joint appearance will also put on rare public display the warm relationship the two women have developed since the change of power at the White House.
During last summer's event, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush showed flashes of humor as they joked about prison-like aspects of White House life and the scrutiny that women and girls, including first ladies, are subjected to over their looks, including the current first lady's now grown-out bangs. They sat side by side in separate chairs, listening intently and gazing and gesturing toward each other as they spoke.
"It's a really nice prison," Mrs. Obama quipped about her home since 2009. "But with a chef," added Mrs. Bush, who lived there for eight years. When the talk turned serious, they urged their African counterparts to use their unique positions to help their countries.
Former President George W. Bush's institute organized the July 2013 gathering of African first ladies and invited Mrs. Obama to participate after learning that she and her husband would be in Tanzania at the same time. After Obama decided to hold a U.S. summit with African leaders, Obama aides reached out and proposed a repeat collaboration with Mrs. Bush.
Wednesday's daylong program will highlight the role of first spouses and focus on public-private partnerships and investments in education, health and economic development, including the conversation between the current and former first ladies. George W. Bush and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, are also scheduled to speak.
As with the fraternity of former presidents, which has just four members, the sorority of former first ladies is exclusive. Its five members — Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush — are the only ones who understand what it is like being married to the president of the United States.
Being among the select few with that experience in common accounts for some of the mutual admiration between Mrs. Obama, a 50-year-old Democrat from Chicago, and her immediate predecessor, Mrs. Bush, a 67-year-old Republican from Midland, Texas.
Mrs. Obama remains grateful to Mrs. Bush for showing her around the White House after Obama was elected in November 2008, among other courtesies, while Mrs. Bush appreciates a lunch the Obamas hosted at the White House for the entire Bush family after the official portrait of the 43rd president was unveiled in 2012.
"Upstairs I showed her the dressing room window, with its view of the Rose Garden and into the West Wing, and told her the story of my mother-in-law first pointing it out to Hillary Clinton 16 years before," Mrs. Bush wrote about Michelle Obama in "Spoken from the Heart," her 2010 memoir.
At Mrs. Bush's invitation, Mrs. Obama paid a second visit to the White House before her husband's January 2009 inauguration, this time bringing her mother, who now lives at the White House, and daughters Malia and Sasha. Bush daughters Barbara and Jenna came in from out of town to show the Obama girls parts of the White House where they had had fun.
In Tanzania, Mrs. Obama said Laura Bush was one of the reasons she wanted to participate in the program, although it took place the day the Obamas were departing Africa for home. "I like this woman," the first lady said, gesturing toward Mrs. Bush. "It's hard to find people who know what you're going through, who understand the burdens and the fears and the challenges. ... It's kind of therapeutic."
"A sorority, I guess," suggested Mrs. Bush.
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