Laura Bush salutes 'commitment to service' at Teen Challenge galaBy Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel
Friday, October 11, 2013
In her years in the White House, the most inspiring people first lady Laura Bush encountered weren't those who had titles or helped make world history.
Instead, she said, they were the first responders who searched for survivors after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the volunteers who raced to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and the men and women who defended the country.
"What all these people have in common is a commitment to service," Bush told 900 people who gathered Friday night at the Pfister Hotel for the 30th annual charity banquet and auction to support Teen Challenge Wisconsin.
Bush mixed homespun stories with gentle humor, updating the audience on the members of her famous political family.
She also delivered a strong message of support for the work done by Teen Challenge Wisconsin, the faith-based drug and alcohol treatment and restoration program.
"Since Teen Challenge's founding in Milwaukee, thousands of men, women and teens in your community have benefited from the care and compassion they have found when they enter a center at a breaking point in their lives," she said.
Bush lauded four people who graduated from the Teen Challenge yearlong program. And she appeared overjoyed when a chorus of Teen Challenge members serenaded her with the song, "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
Bush also took a few questions from the co-headliner at the event, Wisconsin first lady Tonette Walker. Asked what thing she missed most about living in the White House, Bush deadpanned, "The chef." The crowd roared with laughter.
She delivered "a report on some of my family members," telling the crowd that former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are in "great shape," with Barbara Bush taking twice daily walks on the beach in Maine.
"They're showing us the way to age with grace," she said. "From both of them, George and I have learned that all we know we have is now. So take advantage of your life as it is. And walk on the beach every chance you get."
She said her husband, former President George W. Bush, is playing a lot of golf and tending to his work at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. She invited the crowd to come visit the facility but noted that "sadly the museum is closed right now because of the (federal government) shutdown."
Her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, also are doing well, she said, and so is her granddaughter, Mila.
"She is perfect," she said. "And our daughter Jenna and son-in-law Henry (Hager) are thrilled, although they have to be careful of being trampled by George and me in our rush to get our hands on the baby."
Bush spoke movingly of the challenges faced by young people in America, recalling her days as a young schoolteacher in Texas.
"I wanted to work with children who had been left out and who had been too often left behind," she said. "But I wasn't prepared for the poverty I saw there."
She spoke of a little boy who was supposed to go with her and other students to an amusement park. But when she got to the house, the little boy was dressed only in his underwear and his mother never came to the door to give the teachers permission to go to the amusement park.
"Helping children like this little boy is one of the greatest challenges of our time," she said. "Today, America's young people face problems far different from those in earlier generations — drugs and gangs, predators on the Internet, violence on television and in real life are just some of the negative influences."
Before the event, Gov. Scott Walker and his wife, Tonette, spoke of their support for Teen Challenge Wisconsin.
Drawing inspiration from those who have kicked addictions, Tonette Walker said their stories "lift me up and make me proud to be part of the organization."
"Teen Challenge receives no (government) funding at all," she said. "It is important that we give, especially tonight. We hope everyone gives a lot. It costs $100,000 a month to keep Teen Challenge (Wisconsin) going."
Scott Walker said: "Teen Challenge has done remarkable work in this community, around the country and around the world."