- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In her new book, “The Faith of America’s First Ladies,” Jane Hampton Cook views the wives of presidents through the famous biblical description of a “virtuous” wife in Proverbs 31, which declares: “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”

Mrs. Cook, who will speak at the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute’s luncheon today at the Heritage Foundation, designed the first presidential campaign Web site for Laura Bush’s husband, and has since redesigned the Whitehouse.gov site since President Bush took office.

A graduate of Baylor University with a master’s degree from Texas A&M;, Mrs. Cook now lives in Vienna, Va., with her husband, Department of Homeland Security official John Kim Cook, and their son. The following excerpts are from a telephone interview with Mrs. Cook:

Question: In “The Faith of America’s First Ladies,” you sometimes refer to “the first lady of a one-bedroom apartment.” Aside from the traditional idea of the first lady as the president’s wife, what was the definition you had in mind for a first lady as you were writing?

Answer: I had in mind someone who looks to God for her value and then looks at her roles in life as opportunities to allow God to shine through her and use her talents to the fullest.

Q: Who is your intended audience?

A: Women of all ages and backgrounds, but primarily women of faith.

Q: What gave you the idea to write “The Faith of America’s First Ladies,” and what was your goal in writing it?

A: When I left the White House, I had the opportunity to do some research on the White House. I came across some amazing little-known stories on the White House that really inspired me that I had to write about. I also came across a proverb about womanhood that would be a great metaphor for a book about first ladies.

My goal was to encourage and inspire readers about their own life and faith in their own life through the faith and stories of first ladies and through the concept found in Proverbs 31, which is a passage that has inspired both the Jewish and Christian faiths for many generations.

Q: As the mother of a young son, which first lady’s story is most inspiring to you?

A: Barbara Bush’s ability to laugh at life and carry herself with strength and dignity as Proverbs 31:25 indicates has inspired me to really not take life so seriously and to enjoy motherhood.

Q: Each chapter of the book included at least one fictionalized story about a first lady that was based on research. Which story was your favorite to research and write?

A: The story of Louisa Adams when she traveled from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Paris by herself, which was a remarkable accomplishment for a woman of her status in 1815, when women didn’t make such trips by themselves. It was a remarkable story of courage.

Q: Of all the lessons you presented throughout your book, which do you think is the most importantfor readers to come away with?

A: What Imost hope readers come away with is a reminder that their value is in God, much like Jefferson told us through the Declaration of Independence, that all men and women are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights, and this gives us the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

Q: What is your religious background and how would you describe your relationship with God?

A: I grew up in a Baptist home. I now attend a nondenominational church. I view my relationship with God as just that — a relationship with God based on my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, which I came to understand when I was in elementary school.

Q: What Bible verse is most significant in your life?

A: I would say right now Proverbs 31 is perhaps the most impactful passage on my life as I seek to be a woman who respects God, my family, my neighbors and those around me.

Q: What made you want to get involved in the process of spreading George W. Bush’s message, first as governor of Texas, and now as president, through designing his Web site?

A: I was very impressed with Governor Bush and his ability to focus on several key issues such as education, lowering taxes, building stronger communities and families. When I applied for a job for his office in Texas, I read about 300 articles to make sure I agreed with 95 percent of what he stood for, and that drew me into wanting to communicate his message first to Texans and then to the people of the United States.

Q: In your book, you discuss the verse Proverbs 31:12, which says, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” How would you describe your role, now that your husband serves the American people in the Department of Homeland Security?

A: I think my role is to encourage him in his work, to be a sounding board and also someone who can work with him when the going is tough and to also make sure he gets enough sleep.

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