Laura W. Bush: “We awoke on September 12 to a different life”

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Former first lady reflects on 9/11, post White House life and empowering women

“These years changed us as individuals and as a nation,” said Laura Bush.

Former first lady Laura W. Bush addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Advertising Specialty Institute’s trade show at the Dallas Convention Center Friday morning and candidly described life in and out of the White House.

Mrs. Bush spoke of finding her identity as first lady through advocacy on issues near to her heart, such as improving education, literacy initiatives and enhancing the lives of women around the world through education and health awareness.

“To sit here and hear her say that we’re women and we can do anything and this is a women’s world was moving,” said Norma Westphal of Proforma JETT Eagle Advertising. “She made me cry.”

Candid and compelling, Mrs. Bush spoke of the turbulent times through which her husband, President George W. Bush, guided the country, beginning with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“These years changed us as individuals and as a nation,” she said.

As tears welled in some audience members’ eyes, Mrs. Bush said a secret service agent first informed her of the attacks. She said she sat stricken with Senator Ted Kennedy in his office as the scope of the tragedy became clear, and that night she and her husband stayed in a subterranean bunker, fearing a direct attack on the White House.

“We awoke on September 12 to a different life,” she said. In addition, she mentioned the personal pain her husband felt when he talked with families of military personnel killed in Iraq.

The crowd enjoyed Mrs. Bush’s grace and humor and gave her several standing ovations. “I really liked her humor and all the tidbits about her life that she shared,” said Martha Smith of AIA/RC Sales.

During an afternoon keynote, Mrs. Bush addressed attendees at ASI’s second-annual Women’s Summit at the Adolphus Hotel. Highlights included her thoughts on how empowering women is the most effective way to improve a society’s quality of life. She also shared details of her initiatives as first lady, such as advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan and promoting women’s health.

The two keynotes took place during ASI’s national trade show in Dallas, which attracted 2,245 companies, including 126 from Dallas and 1,022 from Texas. Despite the recession, the promotional products industry grew by 9.1% in 2010 to $17 billion, according to ASI.

About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute is the largest education, media and marketing organization serving the advertising specialty industry, with a membership of over 26,000 distributor firms (sellers) and supplier firms (manufacturers) of advertising specialties. Supplier firms use ASI print and electronic resources to market products to over 23,000 ASI distributor firms. Distributor firms use ASI print and electronic resources, which contain nearly every product in the industry from more than 3,200 reputable suppliers, to locate supplier firms and to market services to buyers. ASI provides catalogs, information directories, newsletters, magazines, websites and databases, and offers e-commerce, marketing and selling tools. Visit ASI and The ASI Show at asishow.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and the CEO’s blog.

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