Laura Bush supports women’s equality, Fellowships at SMU
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 20:03
Though the Bush Center has not yet opened on campus, President and Laura Bush are making their presence known.
Former First Lady, and co-founder of the George W. Bush Presidential Institute, Bush spoke to an audience of around 75 people March 8 about women’s equality and leadership.
March 8 also happened to be International Women’s Day, making this event a celebration of women’s equality and leadership.
“One hundred and two years ago, in 1911 women in several countries began to mark one day each year as International Women’s Day,” Bush said. “A day set aside to champion equal opportunity for women, world wide. Today we live with the benefits of their courage and determination.”
Bush also introduced the first class of the Fellows in the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program. This group of 13 Egyptian women were selected to enhance their leadership skills and empower them to become leaders within their country.
“The Women’s Fellowship was inspired, created and chaired by Mrs. Laura Bush,” Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute James Glassman said.
“President Bush and I are proud to stand by women, and we are so proud of our fellows,” Bush said.
According to the Bush Center website, “each Fellowship class is composed of 14-20 women from a single country. The Fellows represent six powerful sectors of society: education, health, business, politics and media.”
“The inclusion of women in all aspects of society strengthens their communities and proves the stability of their countries. Through the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute were working to improve social and economic opportunity for women and girls,” Bush said.
The women began their Fellowship at SMU last February, where they were taught by members of SMU’s faculty. Their studies focused on communication skills, team building and a number of other skills to help them teach other women in their country.
“When they began the fellowship, these women didn’t know each other. They met here in Dallas for the first time. Today they are a band of sisters bonded by their experiences, and integral to each others success,” Bush said.
The Fellows then spent the next year traveling throughout the country, meeting CEOs and members of Congress to help sharpen their skills.
Each woman was provided a mentor who shared their profession. The mentors spent the year providing support to the Fellows. These mentors were all present at the event.
They also introduced the new class of 2013 who recently began their yearlong training program. This class is made up of 19 Egyptian women.
After Bush spoke, a panel discussion was held among the graduating class where they discussed the importance of this fellowship and what it has taught them.
Charity Wallace, director of the Women’s Initiative and senior advisor to Laura Bush, moderated the panel discussion.
“The purpose of the Fellowship is to equip women with the skills they need to strengthen civil society and ultimately transform their country,” Wallace said.
“And after spending the last year working with these remarkable women, I can attest that they are doing so.”
The graduates all discussed the importance of taking their teachings of equality back Egypt, where they can encourage other women.
The audience, which included SMU board members, members of the Bush Institute, those who helped mentor the Fellows and select SMU students, was allowed a Q&A with the Fellows following the panel.
“I think of the progress my mother has seen in her lifetime, what my daughters have seen in their short lives, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of world will my grandchildren will see,” Bush said as she choked back tears.
“Today on International Women’s Day we consider the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. The choices we make and the actions will take will shape the world they inherit.”