WASHINGTON – Laura Bush (search)'s third solo trip abroad gave her a chance to showcase her ability to serve as an ambassador of American good will and values.
"It's been a really good trip - for me and for the United States," the first lady told reporters who traveled with her over five days to Paris and Moscow.
She departed for Washington early Thursday after having coffee with Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In Paris, Mrs. Bush worked to repair diplomatic relations with France that were damaged over differences about the war in Iraq. She also ushered the United States back into the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (search) - a return intended to signal U.S. willingness to work with other nations.
At a book festival in the Russian capital that was hosted by first lady Lyudmila Putin, the former librarian and school teacher stressed the importance of reading. She combined that with a call to recognize that a celebration of books is as much about freedom as fun.
Mrs. Bush has received lots of media attention during her travels this week.
"I'm glad it's gotten that kind of coverage," she said. "Because that is sort of the point - to let people in Russia and France know that Americans want to be friends."
As an example, Mrs. Bush said she found common ground with Mrs. Putin and the first ladies of Armenia and Bulgaria - in Moscow for the book festival - about the issue of education. In particular, Mrs. Bush mentioned the difficulty of the competition between reading and television, computers and video games.
"Education ... is a concern that everyone has, no matter what part of the world we live in," she said. "The more we can show how many concerns we have are the same concerns worldwide, the more I think we'll see other, every nation will see each other, as similar."
A schedule full of official events left little time for shopping, museum visits or restaurant dinners. But Mrs. Bush's last night offered a performance of the ballet "Don Quixote" at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater (search).
Upon her return home Thursday afternoon, her schedule had little time for rest before her next big event. Mrs. Bush's own annual book festival - the inspiration for Mrs. Putin's - kicks off with a gala at the Library of Congress (search) Friday night and the opening ceremonies Saturday in the White House East Room.
Still, before she left Moscow, Mrs. Bush was already looking ahead to future travels. She said she wants to go to Iraq and, she added: "I really am hoping I can go to Afghanistan in the near future."