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Transcript for Dec. 28

First Lady Laura Bush and Caroline Kennedy join Tim Russert in a special holiday conversation on teaching, patriotism, volunteerism and life in the political spotlight.
/ Source: NBC News

Copyright© 2003, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


NBC News


Sunday, December 28, 2003

CAROLINE KENNEDY, Office of Strategic Partnerships,
New York City Department of Education
Author, "A Patriot's Handbook"



This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS(202)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, December 28, 2003


MR. TIM RUSSERT: Good morning. And on this holiday weekend, we've set aside partisan political debates and tried to find common ground on the virtues of sharing, teaching, volunteerism and patriotism. And joining us on this Sunday morning are two women from two of America's most prominent political families: the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, and the daughter of the 35th president of the United States, Caroline Kennedy. Welcome, both.



MR. RUSSERT: Great...

MRS. BUSH: We're really glad to be here.

MR. RUSSERT: And merry Christmas.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks.

MS. KENNEDY: Same to you.

MRS. BUSH: Same to you.

MR. RUSSERT: Mrs. Bush, a few weeks ago you went to Children's Hospital with Barney, the first dog of the United States.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show those pictures and come back and talk about the whole idea of sharing. Let's watch:

(Videotape, December 2003):

MRS. BUSH: You know what Barney did at the White House? He barked at Santa Claus. Who-all wants to pet him? Everybody. He's a really very sweet dog. He doesn't bite or anything. He's real sweet.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: The first lady of the United States going to Children's Hospital in Washington, greeting and talking to sick children. How important symbolically is it for the country to see that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's a tradition actually that was started by Caroline's mother. I don't know if she knows that. Did you know that?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I knew she...

MRS. BUSH: But all the first ladies have gone to the National Children's Hospital since then, and it's a wonderful tradition. It's a great way to go to be with families whose children won't be home with them for Christmas. And also I think it just brings attention to children's hospitals around the country and the ways Americans can support hospitals and those families.

MR. RUSSERT: And it's a statement that Americans can do something during the holidays, during Christmas, reaching out to someone.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, to help people.

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline Kennedy, in fact, 1961, in December, your mom did start the whole practice of going to Children's Hospital. Let's watch that.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, no.

(Videotape, December 1961):

Unidentified Man: The Christmas season brings Mrs. Kennedy to a children's hospital in Washington for a visit with ill and crippled children. The first lady expressed a wish to make the visit so that she might try bring a little cheer to the unfortunate tot who will have to greet Santa Claus here.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: The whole idea of sharing and trying to help kids, you are now the chief executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the New York City Department of Education. What is that?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, it's really a way of sort of reaching out to the entire city. I think obviously education happens in the classroom, but really in any school and in any city you need the whole community to come together to support kids, to show them that we believe in them. And I think that's really the mission of this office, is to really get the city involved and make people care and become informed about these issues.

MR. RUSSERT: Invest in their city schools and in their children?

MS. KENNEDY: Exactly.

MR. RUSSERT: You have helped create a public service announcement which is now being aired in New York City. I'd like to share it with the country and come back and talk to you and Mrs. Bush about it. Here we go.


Unidentified Girl #1: Hi.

Unidentified Girl #2: This is P.S. I'm Going to be a Designer.

Unidentified Girl #3: I go to P.S. I'm Going to be a Cinematographer.

Unidentified Boy #1: P.S I'm Going to be a Police Officer.

Unidentified Boy #2: I'm going to build bridges.

Unidentified Announcer: New Yorkers have always dreamed big.

Unidentified Boy #3: P.S. I'm Going to be the Mayor.

Unidentified Announcer: Now, in the new New York City public schools, every kid goes to P.S. I'm Going to Make My Dreams Come True.

Unidentified Boy #4: I'm going to be a poet.

Unidentified Girl #4: I'm going to design jewelry.

Unidentified Announcer: P.S. It's All About the Kids.

Unidentified Boy #5: I'm going to do my best, always.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Now, I know, Mrs. Bush, when you were nine down in Texas, you did an ad which said, "I'm going to be the first lady."

MRS. BUSH: No, no such ads.

MR. RUSSERT: It doesn't work that way?

MRS. BUSH: I said I wanted to be a teacher when I was nine. That's what I wanted to do, that was my goal...

MR. RUSSERT: And you became a teacher.

MRS. BUSH: ...and I became a teacher.

MR. RUSSERT: And a librarian.

MRS. BUSH: And a librarian. And I loved every minute in the classroom. I still love to visit schools.

MR. RUSSERT: And in--Why is that?

MRS. BUSH: I like children a lot. I find children very, very amusing and really fun to be with, and there's something very satisfying about working with children and helping children learn. I love books, and it's a great combination, to work with children and have books and literature, some part of working with them.

MR. RUSSERT: In 1969 and early '70s you taught at the John F. Kennedy School.

MRS. BUSH: Elementary School, that's right, in Houston, Texas.

MS. KENNEDY: Really?

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline Kennedy, I'm going to show on the screen here a Web site and a phone number to help support New York City public schools,, (212) 374-2874, where people can offer support to help children in New York City. About 30 percent of the teen-agers who go to New York City public schools drop out. How much of a challenge is it to try to keep those kids in school?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think it's a huge challenge, you know, and I just--I can't think really of a more important issue, sort of, for our country than educating our children. I mean, in New York and in our cities, it's difficult. And these schools are crowded, they're not safe and there's just--you know, it really does need the whole city. Parents really need to be involved. It makes such a difference when parents are involved in their children's education. And then beyond that, even if you just live in the city or work there, it's important that people get involved because this is really about the future and education really has built this country.

And when you go to some of the schools that were built maybe 100 years or 90 years ago and you see kind of these really cathedrals to education and to the immigrant dream of coming here and what people could become, I think that's really what we want to get back to and this kind of hope. And I think if children feel that adults believe in them, then they can really accomplish whatever they set out to do.

So if our country and our city can come together and really create that kind of an environment and that sense of hope that really the schools can once again be places where we can all be proud of as a community and that the kids can really learn and that we expect a lot of them academically and that we're there for them, I think, you know, that would be a tremendous accomplishment for our country.

MR. RUSSERT: Mrs. Bush, there's no substitute for a parent and for a teacher in a kid's life.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. That's right. I mean, parents are very, very important to their children's success, and that's one of the messages I've been trying to get out to parents everywhere. Most parents know that. They realize that they're their child's first teacher, and that what they do at home with their little babies and their toddlers really will make a huge difference when their children start school.

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline talked about the future. If we are serious about remaining the world's economic, military and moral force in the world, we have to have all our kids participating.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Education has to be the most important thing. I remember reading an article once about John Updike, who said in his little town, the school, the high school, was the prettiest building. It was the best architecture. It was sort of classic architecture, like Caroline was just saying. And it made him think that everyone in the city thought that the children and their education was most important, because that building, that school building, was the best-looking building in the city.

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline Kennedy, when you went around to visit the schools, some of the children thought you were Britney Spears?

MS. KENNEDY: Yeah. Didn't you make that mistake?


MS. KENNEDY: That's who you were hoping would be here today, right?

MR. RUSSERT: And you liked it.

MS. KENNEDY: Well, you know, their teacher put them on the spot, and I think that, you know, they--and asked them, "Who do you think this very special visitor is?" Of course, they all were completely dumbfounded. But, you know, one of them ventured forth with something.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you really look inside this problem--I'm just so haunted by one statistic, that if you are 18 years old without a high school education, without a skill, without a spouse and you have a baby, the chances are 80 percent--80--that child will grow up in poverty. And if we can find a way to have our kids go to school with schools worth going to and learn a skill and get a job and get married and have a baby, it's only 8 percent of the kids grow up in poverty.

MS. KENNEDY: I know.

MR. RUSSERT: And the correlation between poverty and guns and gangs and death are overwhelming. Are you seeing any success? I know it's small and incremental, but do you have any hope?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think there is a tremendous sense of hope. And obviously, changing this environment--this is--in New York, which is what I'm most familiar with, there are more than a million children in the schools. And so it's not going to be quick and it's not going to be easy, but I think there's this sense that if you can create smaller schools where adults know the children, where the parents can be involved, if employers support that kind of parent involvement and it makes a school safer and it does make the kids--if their parents care about their homework and have some time to help them and give to them, then I think, you know, the children do better, the schools are safer, and over time, we can really bring this back to the kind of system that we're all going to be proud of. But it's not going to be easy.

MR. RUSSERT: Books and learning--Mrs. Bush, you're a teacher, a librarian. You also helped create the National Book Festival. And I believe we have an opportunity here to watch you addressing a group after returning from Russia and France. And you talked about someone who I didn't know wrote poetry, but let's listen:

(Videotape, National Book Festival address):

MRS. BUSH: Upon returning home last night from my long trip, I found a lovely poem waiting for me. Normally I wouldn't share something so personal, but since we're celebrating great writers, I can't resist. "Dear Laura, roses are red, violets are blue. Oh, my lump in the bed, I've missed you. Roses are red, bluer am I, seeing you kissed by that charming French guy. The dogs and the cat, they miss you, too. Barney's still mad you dropped him. He ate your shoe. The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier. Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier."

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Now, who could have written that poem, huh? I mean, what...

MRS. BUSH: Well, of course, he didn't really write the poem. But a lot of people really believed that he did. That evening at the dinner, what some woman from across the table said: "You just don't know how great it is to have a husband who would write a poem for you."

MR. RUSSERT: Lump in the bed? What...

MRS. BUSH: Well, he did really call me that, of course, but...

MR. RUSSERT: Land on a carrier and you paid him back a little bit, huh?

MRS. BUSH: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: It was a couple weeks ago, the president gave an interview and had this to say. "She can be a pretty tough critic. And I take it to heart, I might add. That doesn't necessarily mean I change, but I take it to heart."

How hard is it for the first lady--and yet you're also Laura Bush--to say to the president, "George, listen. Here's my advice"?

MRS. BUSH: Well, the fact is I think it's hard for any wife or husband, for that matter, to give their spouse a lot of advice. You know, I don't really want a lot of advice from him and I know he doesn't really want a lot of advice from me. So I make an effort to only speak out when I really feel like I can't help but speak out.

MR. RUSSERT: And he listens half the time?

MRS. BUSH: He does listen.

MR. RUSSERT: Talk about the book festival. Why did you start what?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I started it in Texas, a Texas book festival. It was in its eighth year this year. It's done as a fund-raiser for Texas public libraries. And it's actually in the Texas Capitol where the speakers speak from the--on the Senate floor and the House floor and the committee hearing rooms. That's where all of our authors speak. And I love that idea of turning the Texas Capitol over to literature for the weekend.

But anyway because that was so successful three years ago on September 8, just right before the September 11, we had the first National Book Festival on the lawn of the Capitol and in the Library of Congress building. And this year we had our third National Book Festival; 70,000 people showed up to hear their favorite authors read from their books, or talk about books. It was really a really wonderful day.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk about Caroline Kennedy's latest book, "A Patriot's Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love." But, first, there's something about first ladies and these French guys. You saw that photograph. I want to go back to...

MS. KENNEDY: I know where you're going with this. Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...back in history here. Let's take a look at this:

(Videotape, June 2, 1961):

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris. And I've enjoyed it.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Your mom loved Paris.

MS. KENNEDY: She did. She had a wonderful time there, and I think she really felt that she was, you know, representing America, and was so proud of that.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, if we could just get those French to come behind us a few more times. I want to talk about the "Patriot's Handbook." One, Maria Shriver, the new first lady of California, went around the state quoting former California Governor Hiram Johnson, who said, "Democrats, Republicans alike are citizens, and equal patriotism is in each."

In reading your book, Caroline, you have drawn from liberals, conservatives, moderates, Democrats, Republicans, poets, songwriters. It's an extraordinary compilation of the American spirit and it's not ideological. And everyone in it says, "I'm a patriot."

MS. KENNEDY: Right. I think that we have such an incredible tradition here. And I think the more familiar that we are with it, and that our children are with it, these kind of inspirational touchstones, I think that's--will help us as we face the challenges of today. And there's just, I think, so much of a pride in our heritage and a recognition that patriotism, really, we need to respect that in others, and really live up to these ideals ourselves.

MR. RUSSERT: There is no Democratic patriotism, Republican patriotism. It's American patriotism, isn't it?

MS. KENNEDY: That's right.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the speeches in the "Patriot's Handbook" was Ronald Reagan's farewell address to the nation, January 11, 1989. And let's listen to that.

(Videotape, January 11, 1989):

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: And let me offer lesson number one about America. All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen, I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents hadn't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let them know and nail them on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "Great change in America begins at the dinner table." Do you share that?

MS. KENNEDY: I think so. I think it's something that we need to really be talking to our kids also about the things that we care about and believe in as parents and how you pass those values on. And I know I was so lucky to grow up in a family where that was done. My grandmother, of course, really believed so deeply that, you know, people could change the course of history. And each one of us had something to contribute.

MR. RUSSERT: You were quizzed at the dinner table.

MS. KENNEDY: That's right. That's right. And so--and I think that--and there really was so much joy in being part of things and sharing and trying to help others. And that's the kind of thing--I think children really want to do that and at a very young age. And I think Christmas is a wonderful time, and the--all these holidays that we're celebrating, of really encouraging that in them, and whether it's baking cookies or helping someone, or visiting, you know, a hospital or a senior center, I think that that's the way it begins. And then you move on and you get satisfaction from really helping others. And, then, hopefully, you know, you see that's really what our country's all about and then you get involved.

MR. RUSSERT: And, Mrs. Bush, President Reagan said to all of us, "We can learn from our children."

MRS. BUSH: We can learn from our children. There's no doubt about that.

MR. RUSSERT: And when you were...

MRS. BUSH: I think we all learn from our children. Certainly they are--my children and I know Caroline's children and all children that I've worked with before are very idealistic. They're very idealistic about our country. And they're idealistic about the way things should be, the way families should be, for instance. And a lot of us as adults lose that idealism. And I think it's really great to be reminded of it again when we hear children. I just went to Walter Reed hospital with the president, and on the walls, of the soldiers who are there recovering from their injuries, are letters from children all over America with the most idealistic lines in them. And I know those letters are very meaningful to the soldiers there who are recovering.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk--we have some of those letters from children which I want to talk about in a little bit, but there is another speech in this book, Caroline Kennedy, from Martin Luther King. It's called "The Drum Major Instinct." And we couldn't find the video but we found the audio. And it's so compelling because it's such a call to America. All Americans...


MR. RUSSERT: matter what level they may feel they have achieved or not achieved, let's listen to Martin Luther King:

(Audiotape, February 4, 1968):

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: You don't have to have a college to serve.

Unidentified Man: Right!

DR. KING: You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

Unidentified Man: Yes!

DR. KING: You only need a heart...

Unidentified Man: Yes!

DR. KING: ...full of grace.

Unidentified Man: Amen.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: A heart full of grace, Mrs. Bush.

MRS. BUSH: That's so, so sweet. I really love those words, all of those words. America's promise that Colin Powell started, one of the five promises from adults to children, one of the most important really is the chance to serve, to let children have the chance to serve. We, as adults and certainly this group, the three of us, really have the opportunity to serve in so many ways and really the luxury to serve people. But if you let children have that same opportunity, they learn so much from it and really they--it's a great way to build self-esteem is to be able to help other people.

MR. RUSSERT: I one time asked you, Caroline Kennedy, how many people in your life have come up to you and said, "I got into the Peace Corps," or "I got into public service," or "I got into teaching," "I got into politics because of your dad"?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think, you know, for me it's really been something that's happened really throughout my life. And it was something that, you know, I know happened to, you know, my brother as well, and I think it really has made a tremendous impact, and certainly this kind of recent season of reminiscence, people really were, you know, still coming up to me and younger people, too, who have heard about it from their parents. And I think that's really one of, you know, father's great legacies is this kind of--the way that he inspired people to look within themselves and see what they have to give. And I think that's really something--you know, there are so many ways, I mean, to serve, and there's so many ways--and it's so rewarding. And I think people really do get so much satisfaction, you know, out of feeling that they're making a difference in helping someone else. And so it's just a wonderful legacy of his and I think that kind of leadership that's so critical in our country and we've been so lucky to have great leaders who have done that. And as Mrs. Bush said, I mean, children have this capacity, too. There's a penny drive in New York where kids go around collecting pennies and then they decide what they're going to do with the pennies and how they can help in their communities. And I think it gives them that power to feel that they're helping. And they've collected, you know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars even in the poorest neighborhoods. And I think it's just a great way of children getting that feeling of helping.

MR. RUSSERT: For a whole generation of Americans, much of that feeling started in January of 1961 and one of the speeches in the "Patriot's Handbook" is the inaugural address...

MS. KENNEDY: Yes, it is.

MR. RUSSERT: ...of John Kennedy. I'd like to watch a little of that and come back and talk some more.

(Videotape, January 20, 1961):

PRES. KENNEDY: And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience, our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help but knowing that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." That's spiritual. And I must tell you, as a 10-year-old Irish Catholic kid in Buffalo watching that, it totally changed my life.

MS. KENNEDY: Really?

MR. RUSSERT: Transformed me.


MR. RUSSERT: Mrs. Bush, you remember those days?

MRS. BUSH: I do remember those days very well. And the very first part of that quote, of course, is one of the most well-known quotes in the world. But I didn't realize the second part of it. I didn't know that he spoke of the world and said, you know, "When you're asking what America can do for you, ask what we can do together."

MR. RUSSERT: "For the freedom of man."

MRS. BUSH: "For the freedom of man," because I think that's really what we're looking at today in the world.

MR. RUSSERT: And the notion that "Here on Earth, God's work must be our own"...

MRS. BUSH: And I love that part of it.

MR. RUSSERT: such a message for this season. You know, we live in Washington and sometimes the atmosphere can be poisonous in terms of partisanship. There was a wonderful event last month at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. There was a recipient of the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Here is the 41st president of the United States making that presentation:

(Videotape, November 7, 2003):

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: It's a well-known political fact of life, particularly here in Texas, that when you want to fire up a Republican crowd, give them a little red meat, you know? Nothing works like jumping on Ted Kennedy. It's a guaranteed winner. And having thought about this a great deal, I have what I think is a fair trade for you, Senator. I want to help foster a kinder and gentler political detente. If the senator can contain the nine Democratic candidates out there taking shots at my son, I will do what I can to restrain Barbara Bush. Now, that's a fair trade.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Can anyone restrain Barbara Bush?


MR. RUSSERT: That settles that.

MRS. BUSH: Exactly.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Senator Kennedy did receive that award and he responded in kind. Let's watch.

(Videotape, December 7, 2003):

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D-MA): At the reception earlier, I overheard two people talking about my visit. And one said, "Do you think this award will change Senator Kennedy?" The other said, "I certainly hope so." There is something I want to say plainly today that goes beyond any difference of party or policy. I have great respect for both President Bushes. So while we may sometimes disagree, both our families share an abiding commitment to the nation's founding ideals and to the cause of an America that lives up to its highest principles.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "Sharing an abiding commitment." Is it possible to get beyond the

partisanship and find common ground on these kinds of issues, Caroline?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think it's so important because I think most people really want to feel that that's what's happening among their leaders. They really do work together in their communities and they do try, and I think they expect the same of the national politicians.

And so at our best, I think that's what happens. And I think this day in Texas was a great example of two people who know how to--who are great politicians and really care about what they believe in, but also recognize that there is a dimension beyond where they come together. And so it was a wonderful day. I was lucky to be there, and we had so much fun and it was a wonderful trip. President Bush and Mrs. Bush were so gracious. And it was my second trip down there, and that was the first place that I met Mrs. Bush, when I went to the dedication. So I think there is a respect that goes beyond any other kind of partisan politics.

MR. RUSSERT: Mrs. Bush, so many times I go around the country and people say, "Why can't people in Washington just get together and resolve their differences and come together, find common ground?" It's a real challenge, isn't it?

MRS. BUSH: It is a real challenge, but you're right, American people expect our leaders and all politicians who are here to do America's business, you know, to work together, to do what's right for our country. And it happens. It does happen sometimes. Certainly the No Child Left Behind Act was one of the big pieces of legislation where both sides of the aisle worked together.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we take a break--a lot to talk about, two political families, political dynasties--here's a picture of former President Bush and the governor of Florida and the current president of the United States. In this famous picture back from 1960, we have Jack Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Ted Kennedy. Then we had this interesting development, Caroline Kennedy: a brother-in-law campaigning for a Republican president. There's Arnold, the Kennedy brother-in-law, which led to this, a Republican Kennedy in-law taking the oath as governor of California. And who is that applauding him? One Caroline Kennedy. Is this what we have in 2003?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think Arnold really has inspired people to come together in a great way and to get involved in public service. And, you know, I like to think that he learned a little bit of that from his in-laws. And so Maria has done a tremendous job and, you know, I think it's really exciting.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you trying to get him to convert to becoming a Democrat?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, no, I--you know, we're trying to--he's--I don't think that's happening. But I think he's doing a tremendous job. And having Maria there, I think we're in good shape.

MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back and continue our

conversation with Laura Bush and Caroline Kennedy about September 11 and our children, and how we can all come together and teach and learn from one another, right after this.


MR. RUSSERT: More of our special holiday edition of MEET THE PRESS with first lady Laura Bush and Caroline Kennedy, after this very brief station break.


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back with the first lady, Laura Bush, and Caroline Kennedy. "A Patriot's Handbook"--it was actually named by your daughter.

MS. KENNEDY: It was. I tried to talk to my children when I was doing the book because I wanted the book to appeal to all ages and I think for children as well as parents and grandparents so that they could kind of talk about these things and she came up with the best title. She was 12. And she was home sick one day. And better than, you know, all the adults. She kind of captured the point of the whole thing, which is...

MR. RUSSERT: And her name is?

MS. KENNEDY: And her name is Tatiana.

MR. RUSSERT: And we thank her for the title.

MS. KENNEDY: Yes, we do.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the speeches in the book, Mrs. Bush, is probably the most important speech your husband has given as president, an address to the joint session of Congress September 20, 2001...

MRS. BUSH: Sure.

MR. RUSSERT: ...just nine days after that horrific event. Let's listen to President Bush, September 2001:

(Videotape, September 20, 2001):

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think we've recovered from September 11?

MRS. BUSH: Not really. I mean, I think we--there're--you know, our world changed. I mean, what he just said there, night fell on a different day. And I think that we're—you know, we still are always aware of that. The rawness of it, and the shock of it, it's diminished, I think, with time. But...

MR. RUSSERT: And here we are in this Christmas season of 2003 under a heightened terrorist alert. It's still very much with us.

MRS. BUSH: It is very much with us.

MR. RUSSERT: What do we say to our children?

MRS. BUSH: We have to keep comforting our children but we also have to be very vigilant as American citizens as we go about our work and our business. And that's difficult, it's wearing, it's very anxiety-provoking. But at the same time, I think it also makes us know we need to put our arms around our children and be with them and we know what's most important in life, our faith and our friendships and our love with our families. And we always think that at holidays, I think, especially. That's when we especially want to be with our families, and that's when we especially miss our family members who can't be with us because they've gone on or they're deployed, like a lot of American soldiers are right now.

MR. RUSSERT: You were with Senator Ted Kennedy on the morning of September 11.

MRS. BUSH: I was.

MR. RUSSERT: You shared that with us a couple of years ago. Were you in New York on September 11?

MS. KENNEDY: I was. I had just taken my son to school and come home.

MR. RUSSERT: Did you talk about that day, that event, with your kids?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, in New York, of course, it was all around you. So, absolutely. There were people that they knew in their schools who were worried about their parents, and, you know--so it really--I think for all Americans, but especially in New York, was something that was incredibly powerful and sad.

MR. RUSSERT: And stays with us to this day.

MS. KENNEDY: Yes, absolutely. But I think we found so much strength in--as people often do in very hard times, that I think it did bring us together as a city and a country. And we feel, you know, obviously for the families and now for the troops, but I think we did learn a lot. And I think in that kind of sacrifice remember those who have gone before and have given us what we have, so...

MR. RUSSERT: Mrs. Bush, you mentioned the letters you receive--and people can draw such strength from them. Alanzo Armendarez wrote a letter to President Bush. His son, Ernest, enlisted in the military after September 11. And Ernest's two sisters, Victoria, 13, and Jessica, 10, wrote a poem praising their brother and shared it with you and the president. Let's put it on the screen and look at it. "My Country tis of thee; God, how I love to be free; Freedom is my middle name; I hope I can always be me."

MRS. BUSH: That's so sweet.

MR. RUSSERT: These young girls just captured it all. When you are visiting with the loved ones who have left someone on the battlefield or whose son or daughter is now deployed, what do you say to them?

MRS. BUSH: Usually I've listened to what they have to say about their loved ones, and that was what I was struck most by on the first anniversary of September 11 when we went to Ground Zero and that is how people wanted me to know and wanted the president to know about the person that was lost. And we get letters. I've been written letters from mothers of soldiers who were killed in Iraq and they want me to know about their child.

MR. RUSSERT: You have a book there, "Uncle Sam's Kids: When Duty Calls." Tell us about that.

MRS. BUSH: Well, this woman, whose husband is actually deployed in Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, wrote this book for children whose parents are deployed. And really it's a great book for children just who want to know about what it's like to serve our country in the United States military. It's a story for children about a family who say goodbye to their dad when he is deployed and he goes overseas and then they wait for him to come home, and in this storybook, of course, they get to make the signs at the end and meet him at the airport and welcome him home from his deployment.

MR. RUSSERT: We have pictures of President Bush's now-famous secret visit to Iraq. Here he is on Thanksgiving Day, holding up the turkey, greeting the troops. Did you want to go with the president on that day?

MRS. BUSH: I did want to go. I wasn't invited to go. You know, I knew he was not going to ask me to go with him on that day, but then when he was there, I was sorry I was not with him.

MR. RUSSERT: Were you nervous?

MRS. BUSH: I was very anxious at first, when he first started talking about it, and then—but by the time it really happened, that Wednesday night when he and Condi got in the van to drive off from the ranch house, I was not nervous. I just knew they wouldn't do it unless they really thought there'd be a very, very good chance that it would be safe. And the next morning, though, when I--when the Bushes, George's parents, were just 15 minutes out from the ranch and--they didn't know. They thought they were coming to have Thanksgiving dinner with him. I called the head of my detail to ask him to--where the president was because I knew he would be in Iraq at our time, 8:30 in the morning till 11:30. And this was about a quarter till 10, and I'd not heard a single word. And I asked for the head of my detail and said, "Where's the president?" And he said, "Well, we show him at the residence." And I said, "Oh, oh, yeah, of course, he must just be in the other room." And I realized that even the head of my detail didn't know that he was there.

MR. RUSSERT: That's a wonderful story. The president is missing.

MRS. BUSH: Yeah, exactly.

MR. RUSSERT: And so when President Bush 41, former President Bush, arrived at the house, he was expecting to have dinner with his son.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: And his son...

MRS. BUSH: And I didn't get to be the one--I wanted to be the one to tell him that he wasn't there, but, of course, somebody else told them a few minutes before. I'm sure somebody else really wanted to tell them.

MR. RUSSERT: There's another battleground in Afghanistan. And a few weeks ago, you met with some Afghan teachers. We have a picture here of them in the White House where now little girls, as well as little boys, are going to school again in Afghanistan. You expressed an interest in going to Afghanistan. Do you think you will?

MRS. BUSH: I hope I'll have a chance to go this spring. I really hope I'll have a chance to go. And what's very amazing to me--I'm really always moved and touched by how many American women feel a very strong sisterhood with women in Afghanistan. And the other night at the Congressional Ball, when people were going through the receiving line, a congresswoman said, "If you go to Afghanistan, can I go with you?" And then several spouses of congressmen said to the president, "I just want to ask one thing. If Laura goes to Afghanistan, can I go with her?" And I got to tell these Afghani teachers that, how American women really feel so strongly about their plight, first under the Taliban, and now their success, and how we really, really hope they're successful. We're really glad to see little girls back in school, and we're trying to do everything we can to make sure Afghan women really get the rights in the Loya Jirga now, in this constitution that they're trying to write that we hope they have.

MR. RUSSERT: I think the symbolism of ripping off those burqas and letting their faces be seen and admired and adored by the rest of the country...

Caroline Kennedy, in the archives to the Kennedy administration are letters to President Kennedy, particularly during the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962. And I know at St. Bonaventure School we were under our desks praying for world peace. And this one in particular, I think, captures it, from Betsy Peters of St. Joseph School in Indiana: "Dear President Kennedy, of course you are a busy man. I just wanted to send you this letter to cheer you up a little. We are praying that all your decisions will be right. Everybody's hoping that we will have peace. We know that the situation is critical, however. We have confidence in you. God bless you daily. A young citizen."

MS. KENNEDY: Oh, isn't that nice.

MR. RUSSERT: Those are the kinds of things that obviously have to affect the president and a first lady in a family that is in the White House trying to do the right thing in the middle of a crisis.

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think that kind of support--and it just shows kind of the spirit of this country is so supportive of its leaders. And I think--and its troops and believes that people are really trying to do the best and the right thing. And I think that's just a wonderfulexample of that. And people appreciate how difficult it is.

MR. RUSSERT: As we all now know, thank God we avoided nuclear war in 1962. One of the more interesting pictures I saw was Caroline Kennedy and Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev's son--the children of these two world leaders, and there you are meeting each other in 2002. And now Sergei is an American citizen. And I recalled Nikita Khrushchev-- here's a picture of him way back when, in 1960, pounding his fist at the United Nations. It was around that time that Nikita Khrushchev said to Americans, "Your grandchildren will grow up in communism"...


MR. RUSSERT: ...and now his son is an American citizen. And the Cold War, which took 70 years, actually was won in a curious and a wonderful way without a shot being fired against the Soviet Union as such, but the power of ideas and the power of will, where the Soviet Union collapsed and is now evolving to a free country.

MS. KENNEDY: Right. Well, I think the power of these ideas is something that we are so lucky to live under and for. And so many people have sacrificed to keep them for us and to keep us free. And that was an incredible moment because he looks very much like his father, Sergei does, and so it was just so striking for me to meet him and feel like all these barriers had come down and there really is a chance for peace. And one of my father's, you know, great lines is to make the world safe for diversity, and I think that that kind of day really symbolized that for me.

MR. RUSSERT: Did he remember the Cuban missile crisis?

MS. KENNEDY: He remembered it very well because he also had spent a lot of time in Cuba and I think--and so he had studied it. I think he was an engineer also, and so he's really studied and lived this very much. And he's obviously much older at the time than I was. So to meet him was such an immediate connection with just a whole other historical time.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you remember the Cuban missile crisis at all?

MS. KENNEDY: No, I don't, really. I remember...

MR. RUSSERT: Too young.

MS. KENNEDY: Right. I mean, of course, I've heard about it from everyone and studied it, but I don't remember it directly.

MRS. BUSH: That's such a great American story, actually. I think that's the story of our country...

MS. KENNEDY: Right, right.

MRS. BUSH: meet someone who, you know, now is an American and...

MR. RUSSERT: Whose father risked nuclear war and now the son is an American citizen.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, one of the...

MR. RUSSERT: And we embrace him.

MS. KENNEDY: And loves this country and really appreciates the ideals on which it was founded and is so happy to be here.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

MS. KENNEDY: So we're so lucky that we have that kind of power and inspiration.

MRS. BUSH: One of the writers that I took to Mrs. Putin's book festival, Moscow Book Festival, is R.L. Stine, who's a best-selling children's writer. He writes the "Goosebumps" stories. He's one of the best-selling American children's writers of all the children's writers. And his grandparents had emigrated from Russia in 1903 and he'd never been to Russia. And they escaped--they were Jewish and they escaped sort of the anti-Semitism of Russia and moved here. And the idea of being able to take back now at this point in 2003 a grandson of someone who immigrated to the United States as a writer was really great for me. It was so typically American.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we show some holiday pictures of the White House, which is probably the most festive place in America, how hard is it to live in the fishbowl, the political spotlight, hearing criticism of the president, of the--how hard is that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's not really that hard. I mean it's really fabulous, the opportunities that I have and I know that Caroline has from, you know, being the daughter of or the wife of someone who serves our country.

MR. RUSSERT: And you can stay positive and say, "I can make the country..."

MS. KENNEDY: Well, I think our family, and I'm sure the Bushes' family is the same--there's so much support and love in the family. And then I think if you grow up in a family like that, you know, that that extends beyond the family, and I think you really find a sense of community. And as we saw in the letters, people really are there for the president and want the country to succeed.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you one of the very popular members of the Bush family, and that's Barney Bush. This was his Christmas video with the Barney cam.

Barney eyeing those treats up there on the shelf.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, the chocolate factory. This year's theme at the White House were children's stories and our wonderful pastry chef built this great chocolate factory from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

MR. RUSSERT: You know, Christmas at the White House is extraordinary, and it's not just Barney had a good time. We went back in the archives, Caroline Kennedy, and we found a-- very interesting pictures. And let's take a look at Caroline and her mom celebrating Christmas. Look at this.

MS. KENNEDY: Oh, that was fun.

MR. RUSSERT: Isn't that great? This--is that the horse?

MRS. BUSH: Is that Macaroni?

MS. KENNEDY: That was Macaroni.


MS. KENNEDY: Absolutely, yes.

MRS. BUSH: Pulling the cart. Cute.

MR. RUSSERT: All in front of the White House.

MS. KENNEDY: That was really fun. That I remember.

MR. RUSSERT: You do?

MS. KENNEDY: Yeah, I do.

MR. RUSSERT: It must be so hard trying to remember what you really remember and just this video mirage and all the pictures you've seen through the rest of your life. Are you—do you remember very specific things?

MS. KENNEDY: I do remember. I remember visiting my father in his office really well. It was such an exciting--it was, like, the highlight of my day, obviously, and so that I remember, and times being in the White House I remember. And then just, you know, beyond that, I think you do stories. And like any child, you know, there are family stories that are passed down, and that helps you to remember as well.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we go, I remember your mom saying something very much about her mission: raising her kids. This is a quote I read from you, Caroline: "There is no more important job than how we raise our children."

Mrs. Bush, that's obviously your mission.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. That's right. And to really help American parents raise their children in a really good way, and really to impress upon parents how important those childhood years are and how quickly they pass.

MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. You said the other day you want your daughters to go for it.

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Just go out there...

MRS. BUSH: And they are. I mean, they really are. I want them to be and do whatever they want to do.

MR. RUSSERT: And you said you're ready to be a grandmother, but you haven't told them?

MRS. BUSH: No, I haven't. I think--actually, I'm sorry I said that. I don't want to really put any pressure on them yet, but...

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline Kennedy, how important is that mission to you that that's how you'll be remembered: as a mom?

MS. KENNEDY: Well, it's the most important thing. And I'm so lucky that I have three wonderful children and a wonderful husband. And so we'll see. I mean, they're the ones who are going to have to answer the questions later on. But I hope--I think like any parent, you know, you want the best for your own children and then you want them to take that forward and inspire others in their own lives if possible.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we go, your New Year's wish for America?

MRS. BUSH: For peace. My New Year's wish is for peace.

MR. RUSSERT: And you?

MS. KENNEDY: Absolutely. I think for peace, of course, and each one of us, I think, can hopefully feel that we can contribute towards that.

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you for a wonderful and inspirational conversation on this Sunday morning.

MS. KENNEDY: Thank you, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Caroline Kennedy, Laura Bush...

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: ...thank you. And when we come back, poet Robert Frost. He was on MEET THE PRESS Christmas Day 1955. And he's next right here.


MR. RUSSERT: Christmas Day, 48 years ago, Robert Frost was right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Videotape, December 25, 1955):

MR. BROOKS: Our guest on this Christmas Day is the four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Mr. Robert Frost.

MR. LAWRENCE SPIVAK (NBC News): Mr. Frost, is there any one of your poems that better expresses how you feel about America than any other poem?

MR. ROBERT FROST (Poet): I suppose that would be hard to narrow down. You suppose--there's one that's historic, almost, if you want me to say it. It's a short one. "The land was ours before we were the land's. She was our land more than 100 years before we were her people. She was ours in Massachusetts, in Virginia, but we were England's, still Colonials, possessing what we still were unpossessed by, possessed by what we now no more possessed. Something we were withholding made us weak until we found out that it was ourselves we were withholding from our land of living and forthwith found salvation and surrender. Such as we were, we gave ourselves outright. The deed of gift was many deeds of war to the land vaguely realizing westward, but still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, such as she was, such as she would become." And it all lies in that first line. "The land was ours before we were the land's." We had to belong to the land that belonged to us. And that's my nearest talking about America directly.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: At the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961, Robert Frost was to deliver a special poem for the occasion. The glare of the sun prevented him from reading it. Instead Frost recited from memory "The Gift Outright," the same poem you just heard here on MEET THE PRESS.

As we leave this morning, all of us at MEET THE PRESS hope you and your families have a wonderful and peaceful holiday and very happy new year. In that spirit, we are joined by the United States Navy Band Brass Quintet.

(Performance by United States Navy Band Brass Quintet)


(Performance by United States Navy Band Brass Quintet)