- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

As I look back over the last eight years, I am filled with pride in my husband and his accomplishments.

When George and I met, I fell in love with a man who is gracious, humble and sincere. And the qualities that I liked most in him are the same characteristics that have served our nation well in challenging times.

George is a man with a heart for people. He is a loving husband and devoted father. He has great inner strength, which has allowed him to make the difficult decisions a president faces - not because they are popular, but because he believes they are right.

I have seen lives transformed by my husband’s leadership.

In Africa, I embraced children who are alive today because of George’s historic AIDS relief.

In Taliban once banned from school told me they are studying business and science.

In our nation’s classrooms, teachers tell me they are using new strategies to teach reading - thanks to specialized training under No Child Left Behind.

Hundreds of Americans have asked me to thank my husband for keeping America safe. I have watched George thank the men and women of our armed forces, including those who have been gravely injured. I have seen him comfort their families, and I know that he deeply respects the men and women who volunteer to defend our freedom.

Strong leadership evokes strong responses, and George has often been the subject of ugly personal attacks. As his wife, I have found these verbal assaults difficult to bear.

But George has never responded in kind. He knows that demeaning others would undermine the dignity of his office. It would also be contrary to his character.

After a harsh campaign, some have been surprised by the gracious way that George has handled the transition to the next administration. Those of us who know him expected nothing less. We understand how much George honors the institution of the presidency, and how deeply he cares about our country.

George and I leave the White House knowing that our lives have been enriched by the kindness and prayers of so many Americans.

Our strength has grown. Our faith has grown. Our belief in our country has grown.

We will always be grateful for the opportunity to represent the United States.

- First Lady Laura Bush

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