About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
April 1, 2019 

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m Debra Steidel Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join me for today’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

While the President has been elected by the people and lived a public life, the First Lady has not run for any office, and a number have been reluctant residents of the White House. She may not have had an official role or title, but each First Lady had to shoulder many responsibilities as the closest confidante to our nation’s leader.

Since the days of George Washington, Americans have had a fascination with the President as a political leader and as a person. And that curiosity has extended to the wife of the President.

The Presidencies of the past 90 years are well documented in the Presidential Libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration. These 14 libraries contain a wealth of information about the Presidents from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama, their First Ladies, and their families, and associates.

One First Lady—Barbara Bush—is represented in two Presidential libraries—her husband’s, President George Herbert Walker Bush—and her son’s, President George W. Bush.

Mrs. Bush and Abigail Adams are the sole members of an exclusive club of women who have been both wives and mothers to Presidents. They are also both strong, decisive women who were their husbands’ most trusted advisers.

In writing about Susan Page’s new biography about Mrs. Bush, NPR’s Jessica Taylor says, “the book paints a larger portrait of, perhaps, one of the most underappreciated, least understood figures of the last century—one who vitally shaped two presidencies.”

There’s one more thing I’d like to mention before I bring up today’s speaker. If you’re here today, you must be interested in stories of strong women. A new exhibit, telling the stories of many strong, dedicated, and determined women, will open here on May 10.

Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote will commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment and tell the story of women’s struggle for voting rights as a critical step toward equal citizenship.  The exhibit will explore how American women across the spectra of race, ethnicity, and class advanced the cause of suffrage and will follow the struggle for voting rights beyond 1920.

And now let’s turn to Susan Page for the story of Barbara Bush.

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Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, where she writes about politics and the White House. She has covered six White House administrations and 10 Presidential elections, and has interviewed the past nine Presidents from Richard Nixon through Donald Trump—and reported from six continents and dozens of foreign countries.

Susan appeared as an analyst on PBS NewsHour, CBS’s Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CNN’s State of the Union, CBS This Morning and other television and radio programs.

To guide this afternoon’s conversation, we are joined by Jennifer Rubin.

Jennifer is an opinion writer of the "Right Turn" blog for the Washington Post. Previously she worked at Commentary, PJ Media, Human Events, and the Weekly Standard.

She covers politics and policy and provides insight into the conservative movement, the Republican and Democratic parties, and threats to Western democracies.

Will you please welcome Susan Page and Jennifer Rubin.