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Laura Bush on the Olympic spirit

First lady Laura Bush weighs in on the protests and the parade of nations in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams in Torino, Italy.

One of the most high-profile visitors in Torino is first lady Laura Bush. She and daughter Barbara are leading the official U.S. delegation to the Winter Games. On her way to Italy, the first lady did quite a bit of studying of the facebook of the U.S. athletes, so she'd know a bit about each of them before she met the delegation.

On her way to Torino, she and daughter Barbara stopped in Vatican City to meet with Pope Benedict. In my conversation with her on Friday, I asked her about that meeting with the pope.

First lady Laura Bush: I’d been really looking forward to it. He’s a lovely man, very, very approachable, real sort of parish priest-like, in a way that it made me feel really comfortable, and I appreciated that a lot.

Brian Williams: In addition to the members of the U.S. delegation, you are the embodiment of the United States here in Torino. How much pressure do you feel? How much do the protest signs get to you along the motorcade route?

Bush: Well, I didn’t actually see very many protest signs along the motorcade route, but I’m thrilled to be here. I’m honored to be able to represent the U.S. 

Williams: Let’s talk about the world of Islam and the current troubles. They came out of the editorial cartoons. What’s your position on what’s happening, broiling around the world right now?

Bush: Well, I think it’s really sad and I think people around the world and every country need to speak out and ask for people not to be violent, not to have violent protests. And the cartoons certainly are reprehensible, but at the same time it’s reprehensible to burn embassies and to have those sort of very, very violent protests.

Williams: Since we’ve been here in Italy, we saw you on live television pictures and videotape for the service for Coretta Scott King. You and President Bush had to sit there on the dais while in front you, at the podium, many speakers were harsh, quite directly.

Bush: Well, I wouldn’t say they were many!

Pope Benedict XVI gestures as he meets U.S. first lady Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara during a private audience in the pontiff's private library at the Vatican February 9, 2006. The first lady is visiting Rome before heading to Aviano Air Base to meet with U.S. troops and continuing on to the opening ceremonies of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin. REUTERS/Giuseppe Giglia/PoolGiuseppe Giglia / X80003

Bush: That’s right. And well, of course I don’t like that, obviously, as the wife of the president, but it was a time for, we were really happy to be there to honor Coretta Scott King and to really to represent the people of the country.

Williams: As you sit here and see teams like Russia walk in, both Koreas will walk in together here tonight — who would’ve thought we’d see that? So much in our world has changed. Will you be thinking about that as you watch the parade of nations?

Bush: Sure, absolutely. And the other thing you think about, the Olympics really represent a chance to renew old friendships and to make new friendships.