President and Mrs. Obama and former President and Mrs. Bush had separate trips to Africa planned, but decided to merge their itineraries with joint appearances today in Tanzania.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama together laid a wreath at the site of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Dar Es Salaam, while Laura Bush and Michelle Obama spoke at the African First Ladies Summit.
The Bush Institute, part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, also used the conference to announce its plans to host similar summits each year in Africa and perhaps other parts of the world.
“In country after country, women stand at the forefront of life-changing progress,” Laura Bush said. “You are advocates and agents for change, and none of you needs to do it alone.”
To promote that sense of community, Bush and Michelle Obama sat down to share their experiences working hand-in-hand with the most powerful men in the world.
The first ladies described their many passions – education for Bush, a fight against childhood obesity for Obama and global health for both. They answered a few questions from the African first ladies sitting the front row. They lightened the mood by dishing on their husbands.
Obama explained how it was important to realize the power of women’s voices, especially since they bring a different perspective to things.
“I love my husband, but sometimes when he has five things to do at one time, it’s funny to watch,” she said to laughter. “’You don’t know where your jacket is right now. I found that shoe, Mr. President.’”
Laura Bush, in turn, recalled when her husband was first running for Congress. As George W. Bush pulled into the driveway after a campaign event, he asked his wife for the truth about his latest speech.
“I told him, ‘It wasn’t really very good,’ and he drove into the garage wall,” she said, as the crowd roared.