- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

PHILADELPHIA A year ago, Laura Bush was repeatedly described as a shy, behind-the-scenes political spouse, uncomfortable with crowds, happier at home reading a book and gently advancing such causes as literacy.
What a difference a national campaign makes.
The wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush takes the stage of the First Union Center tonight, and some say her quiet confidence and understated Texas charm may steal some of her husband's thunder. Mrs. Bush, 53, delivers a first-night welcome at the convention, which opens today and continues through Thursday.
"I can't wait for America to hear this great lady speak on Monday night," the Texas governor told crowds along the campaign trail in Ohio yesterday.
Her 15-to-20-minute talk will follow the convention's opening-night theme of education.
"I expect she will be talking about education in her life experience as a mother and a teacher, and education as part of her husband's administration and what she has done as Texas' first lady her personal perspective," said Bush campaign spokesman Andrew Malcolm.
Mrs. Bush, a former inner-city public school teacher and librarian for nine years, has been working on her convention speech for some time, he said. She may share some anecdotes from her life growing up in Midland, Texas, and her time in the classroom.
Since last fall, Mrs. Bush, the mother of 18-year-old twins, has campaigned solo in 25 states on behalf of her husband, stopping at schools and literacy centers and reading to young children.
Two children from Houston's KIPP Academy, a charter school whose mostly Hispanic students are low income but post consistently high scores on state tests, will introduce Mrs. Bush.
Their presence along with the school's visionary founder, Michael Feinberg, a former Teach for America volunteer, will serve to highlight key themes in Mr. Bush's campaign opportunity with a purpose and leaving no children behind.
In June, Mrs. Bush addressed a large audience, subbing for her husband at Texas' GOP convention in Houston while he was on the campaign trail. That speech "was more policy and political," said Mr. Malcolm, who said he expects her Philadelphia remarks to be more personal.
With her chin-length chestnut hair, cornflower-blue eyes and softly cut pastel suits, her polished, yet comfortable demeanor, Mrs. Bush has brought out the crowds as she stumped for her husband across the nation. Many people are drawn to her sincerity and her unwillingness to be compared with others in her powerful political family, he said.
Her romance with Mr. Bush, whom she married at age 31, has been well-documented, and he has credited her with grounding him and making him the man he is today.
"She's very comfortable about who she is, with her relationship with her husband, and she is very much comfortable campaigning now," Mr. Malcolm said.
Other Bush family members will be on hand at the convention. The candidate's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is expected to serve as a stand-in for George W. before he makes his way to Philadelphia.
Jeb Bush will be "very actively engaged as a surrogate speaker," said convention chairman Andrew Card.
And Jeb's son George P. Bush plans to keep a particularly visible presence this week. His calendar is filled with convention-related appearances as some see Mr. Bush's 24-year-old nephew as a lightning rod to attract young and Hispanic voters.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bush's daughters are expected to attend the convention's opening session tonight. Both graduated high school in June and will leave for college at the University of Texas and Yale University, respectively, in a few weeks.
Mr. Bush, 54, will watch his wife's speech from Ohio and will deliver his own follow-up remarks via satellite before retired Gen. Colin Powell delivers the night's closing address.
Mrs. Bush will leave Philadelphia after her speech to rejoin her husband on the campaign trail before returning together around noon Wednesday.

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