Laura Bush: Should first ladies work outside of White House?

Laura Bush: Should first ladies work outside of White House?

Credit: AFP/Getty Images/USA Today

Former US First Lady Laura Bush speaks during the Georgetown University Symposium Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan on November 15, 2013 in Healy Hall of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: 450155509 ORIG FILE ID: 524691548

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by USA Today

USA Today

Posted on January 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 30 at 11:00 AM

Should a first lady have a professional career outside of the White House? Laura Bush says it’s an “interesting question” and suggests it’s time for a debate.

In interview with C-SPAN, Bush rejected the idea of a salary for the first lady by saying there are “perks” such as a chef at the White House to cook the first family’s meals. But the former librarian brought up the  idea of whether a first lady — or a “first gentleman” if that ever came to pass  – should work beyond the projects, initiatives and other efforts undertaken while the spouse is president.

“The interesting question really is not should they receive a salary but should they be able to work for a salary at their job that they might have already had,” she said. “And I think that what’s where we’ll have to come to terms with.”

Bush continued: “A first gentleman might continue to work at whatever he did if he was a lawyer or whatever. And so I think that’s really the question we should ask is should she have a career during those years that her husband is president in addition to serving as the first lady.”

Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, teaches English at a local community college and is believed to be the first “second lady” to hold a paying job while her husband is the No. 2 American leader.

No one would dispute that first ladies work hard as advocates for their husband’s agenda and their own causes, as Michelle Obama does now trying to make sure kids eat healthy or when Bush championed women’s rights in Afghanistan and democracy in Burma. But working outside of the White House — for a first spouse of any gender — could pose security concerns and raise issues about potential conflicts of interest depending on the specific job.

Still, as Bush notes, this seems like a worthy debate to have.

The C-SPAN  program about Bush, part of the cable network’s ongoing First Ladies series, will air Monday night at 9 p.m. ET with the full interview airing at 10:30 p.m. ET. Here is the clip of her comments on salary and a professional career.

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