WASHINGTON – Look for first lady Laura Bush (search) to get around more in a second term.
After four years of focus on early childhood education -- reading to youngsters, visiting schools and recruiting new teachers -- she's now talking about working with substance-abusing juvenile delinquents as well.
There'll be the customary travel to Europe and other stops on her husband's itinerary, but she longs to set foot in places off the beaten path, such as Afghanistan (search) -- she is an advocate for women's rights there -- and Iraq, where her husband spent Thanksgiving 2003.
Those efforts could help make up for a first term that was overshadowed by outside events and defined at the outset by her political inhibitions.
Mrs. Bush was on Capitol Hill to make her debut before Congress testifying about early childhood learning when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001 (search). In February 2003, she canceled a literary symposium after learning some poets planned to use the White House event to protest the coming war in Iraq.
In last year's campaign, President Bush often told audiences he should be re-elected "so Laura Bush will be the first lady for four more years."
Wish granted, Mrs. Bush can be expected to step out more in the second term, especially as the president tackles some contentious domestic issues, said historian Robert Watson.
"She's a reassuring presence next to him," said Watson, a specialist on first ladies who teaches at Florida Atlantic University. "She reinforces that image that he's trying to project."
Except for the color of her hair (it's lighter) and the labels on her designer clothes (more famous names), little outwardly about Laura Bush, 58, has changed since she became first lady.
A neatnik, she thrives on discipline and structure. She likes to clean and organize in her spare time; books are shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System (search). She'll utter an occasional curse word in front of "the girls" -- though twins Barbara and Jenna say it's strictly for the shock value.
Mrs. Bush is an avid hiker who likes to take long walks in the privacy of Camp David (search), the presidential retreat in Maryland, and the family ranch in Crawford, Texas.
She is a bird watcher and gardener, and hates the fishbowl quality of life that comes with being first lady, a title she has said is "too artificial."
Laura Welch Bush grew up as an only child in Midland, Texas. Inspired by her second-grade teacher, she earned degrees in education and library science and taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston and Austin. She seemed content with her career -- until she met her future husband at a backyard barbecue.
They married three months later, in November 1977, and she quit teaching.
Twin girls, named after their grandmothers, were born four years later, in November 1981.
She became first lady of Texas in 1995, when he was elected governor. The daughter-in-law of a former president, she returned to the White House six years later, but not as a visitor.
This time, she would stay for a while.
After three years largely spent supporting her husband after the Sept. 11 attacks, Laura Bush seemed to emerge from his shadow last year.
Though politics may have required it, she campaigned extensively on her own and was a popular draw, even more than her husband. Dubbed the campaign's "secret weapon," she headlined events that raised at least $5.5 million for Bush's campaign, and about $10 million for the Republican Party.
In speeches around the country, Mrs. Bush defended the president from criticism over his education law, response to the terrorist attacks and pursuit of war in Iraq. She even stepped into the thorny debate over federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research (search).
Her address at the Republican convention marked a rare foray into foreign and domestic policy by a first lady. More than half the speech dealt with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"She knew what she had to do out on the hustings," said Myra Gutin, a historian of first ladies at Rider University in New Jersey who is writing a book about Mrs. Bush's mother-in-law, former first lady Barbara Bush.
"She was out there and talking about her husband and his programs and what a strong leader he was and she was really successful," Gutin said.
Although Laura Bush is no Hillary Rodham Clinton (search), she's not afraid to let it be known when she disagrees with the husband she privately calls "Bushie."
Days before he took office in 2001, Mrs. Bush said she didn't think the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision should be undone, despite her husband's opposition to most abortions.
She disapproves of his penchant for cowboy slang -- for example, saying he wanted terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden (search) "dead or alive."
Recently, she dropped hints that she may disagree with her husband's opposition to gay marriage.
"She seems to be remarkably comfortable in her own skin," Watson said. "What you see is kind of what you get and I think people find that refreshing and comforting."