Laura Bush soon will no longer live in the country's most famous mansion or be able to get away to the coveted Camp David presidential retreat. But beyond the perks, she says what she will miss most about being first lady are the staff and friends who surround her.
"I'll miss all the people that are around us all the time, from the ushers and butlers who are there for every president ... to our own staff, of course, that we love to laugh with and talk with and solve problems with," she said in a televised interview broadcast Sunday. "So I'll miss the people the most."
President George W. Bush's tenure ends on Jan. 20, when President-elect Barack Obama will take office. The Bushes plan to return to Texas, where they will likely spend their weeks in Dallas and weekends at their secluded ranch in Crawford.
The first lady has given advice to Michelle Obama about making the White House a warm, family home. The Bushes' grown daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have given some playful tips about having fun in the executive mansion to the Obamas' young daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Saw ambition and accomplishment
Laura Bush recalled in the interview that she met the Obamas a few years ago at a reception for freshmen senators; Barack Obama had been elected as an Illinois senator. Asked if she viewed them back then as a prospective president and first lady, Laura Bush said: "I don't know if I would say that. But I certainly saw somebody who was very ambitious and accomplished — in both of them."
She jokingly referred to the start of her post-White House years as "the afterlife."
The first lady spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press" in a taped interview that focused largely on her advocacy for women and girls in Afghanistan. She encouraged Americans not to forget about Afghanistan, particularly as the militant Taliban, which brutally represses women, is fighting to re-establish itself.
"Our tendency in the United States is to become isolationist, become protectionist," she said. "I hope people in the United States will look outside of our life here in the United States and do what they can both financially, to be able to support the people of Afghanistan, and then every other way."