This is a partial transcript from Father Jonathan Morris' interview with First Lady Laura Bush on February 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, FNC CONTRIBUTOR: Mrs. Bush, thank you very much for having given me the time to sit down with you. And we appreciate it.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Thanks.
MORRIS: You say it’s the first time you’ve been interviewed by a priest.
BUSH: That’s right.
MORRIS: I appreciate being the first one. And you just came from being with Pope Benedict XVI.
BUSH: That’s right.
MORRIS: The whole world knew John Paul II. He was the charismatic media pope. This Pope is different.
BUSH: He’s really wonderful, though. I really was very much looking forward to having the chance to meet him. President Bush and I have had the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul several times, and we admired him so much.
I like Pope Benedict’s spirit. He seems to have a sense of humor, and I really enjoyed talking to him. We talked about a number of issues that are important to both of us. I told him about visiting St. Mary’s Hospital in Nigeria, a Catholic hospital that works with PEPFAR, the president’s emergency relief for AIDS. And they’re doing the really good work of making sure people are on antiretrovirals, that people get tested and then get the support they need if they are HIV-positive.
MORRIS: Were you able to pick up a little bit about his personality? Pope Benedict’s personality?
MORRIS: Could you describe that to us?
BUSH: Very loving. I think he seemed to have a very sweet and loving personality. He seemed funny and charming, but also very serious, and serious about every issue that our world is facing right now — which are very, very serious issues. And so we talked a little bit about that. We talked a little about terrorism and what we can do in the world to speak out against the violence and against terrorism.
MORRIS: We often come away from a meeting like that with one memory, or one sentence, that he said to us that will make a difference in the way in which we view him, the way in which we view the world. What would be that one sentence or that one idea?
BUSH: Well, he said that he thinks that politics in the world need to be based on values, and that the values that we share as human beings — all different religions — are so important and it’s very important also for governments to be based on those values. And I assume that he meant human rights and respect for the dignity of everyone, every person. So, I'll remember that.
MORRIS: Can you tell us anything that you said to him?
BUSH: Well, I told him about our newest Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito, and then I also talked about John Roberts — our two new Supreme Court Justices, and how outstanding they are and how much integrity both of those men have.
Then, I told him about St. Mary’s in Nigeria, how I'd had this opportunity to visit a Catholic order, really, these nuns who were working so well with very difficult circumstances in Nigeria.
I didn’t tell him about Father Gregory Boyle — I really wanted to — who is a priest in Los Angeles who does a lot of work with former gang members to give them a chance to build successful lives. He’s an American I’ve been very, very impressed with. He does a terrific job with Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. And I really wanted to tell the Holy Father about him, but we didn’t have enough time.
MORRIS: John Paul II — I remember really being taken aback by seeing the footage of you and the president at the funeral, and even before, sitting there before the coffin, if I remember correctly, you might have even shed a tear or two before the coffin. You’re not Catholic. Why did you love the man?
BUSH: Well, I loved him because of his humanity, his deep, deep respect for life and for people around the world, and then for his courage.
He had that very, very strong moral courage and fiber, inner fiber, that was very obvious when you met him, and especially as he became more and more infirm toward the end of his life.
I actually had the chance to meet him when he was in Denver, when he did an American tour as a younger Pope, when my husband’s father was president. I had the chance to go to Denver and meet him then.
So I knew him at both times of his life — then and then later, in these last couple of years of his life, when George and I had the chance to meet him.
But the funeral was so moving, and there was a very, very moving moment in it. I don’t know if everyone saw this or picked up on it, but it was unbelievable, and it was at the very end. It had been quite dark all morning. In fact, everyone was sort of afraid it was going to rain, because we were sitting outside for the funeral. Then at the very end, when the pallbearers picked up the pope’s casket and held it up for people to be able to say good-bye, to see the cross on the top of it, the sun came out and shone on the casket, and it was a very moving moment.
MORRIS: I remember the president, when he came back from that, he went and met with the reporters and he said this will be one of the most memorable points of my presidency. Was that just a passing emotional moment, or did that actually change the way he thinks and the way he acts?
BUSH: Well, it was and always will be one of the most important memories of our life, first having had the chance to know Pope John Paul, and then to be there. The outpouring of love, the millions of young people that stood — we were, of course, all up on the steps with heads of state — but then the many millions of young people from around the world.
There were flags. A lot of Polish flags, of course. There was an Iraqi flag out in the crowd. And that whole spirit that seemed to come over the crowd — grief at losing him, but also celebration that we had the chance to have him in our world.
MORRIS: John Paul II had some tough words, as well, for your husband’s administration in the lead-up to the Iraqi war. Was any of that affection, or love, for the man lost during that?
BUSH: No, no, no. Not at all. I mean, that’s what I mean by the moral courage and the moral fiber that he had, that he would speak out about a lot of issues. That — but he also spoke out very strongly for life, for the respect for life at every stage. And that’s not always a popular viewpoint around the world.
MORRIS: A question about the challenges of raising children at this time: It’s a scary time. It’s a scary time to be raising children. What would you tell parents on how to raise their children in moments of great threats of violence and of pain?
BUSH: Well, I hope that parents will put their arms around their children and keep them safe in the circle of their own arms, because that does make children feel the safest — when their parents actually put their arms around them and are with them and encourage them with encouraging words.
But I also hope parents will pay attention to what is going on outside, on television that their children see, or in the media or movies, or in every other way that our society affects children, and make choices for their children that are appropriate for the age of their children and for the maturity of their children.
In many ways, always before we raised children to fit into society, and now I think in some ways, parents are needing to raise children in spite of what children seen in our society.
So I want to encourage parents to make wise choices for their children.
MORRIS: Okay, just two quick questions here.
First of all, Katrina. I understand you’ve been down there and you even asked to go without the press at times in order just to be with the people. What’s going on there? There are people who write to me all the time and say that people that are still living in tents.
BUSH: Sure, of course, absolutely. I mean, there were millions — not that many, that’s way too many in number — but a large number of houses were destroyed or are uninhabitable.
It’s going to be very slow to rebuild. So people are in FEMA trailers, they’re in tents. There are still a lot of people in hotels. And it’s really important for every city that has displaced people who have moved there from the Gulf Coast to do what they can to work with people, to see if they can get some sort of more permanent housing for them.
And then, of course, to start the rebuilding in New Orleans and across the Mississippi coast, for each state and each city to make their plans and start it.
So many people want to help. People from around the world want to help, and certainly from around the United States. When I was there last time, I asked high school and college students to consider spending their spring break and their summer vacation volunteering on the Gulf Coast and helping with the rebuilding, and I hope they will.
MORRIS: One last question, if you don’t mind.
President Bush has been asked questions about your future after the White House, because you’re really taking to Washington. But seriously, he has often put a stop to it quickly.
BUSH: Because he knows I'm not really interested in running for office. (Laughter.)
MORRIS: What are you interested in after? Politics?-
BUSH: Well, I'm interested in continuing to do work on all the issues I always have, which are education — I mean, that’s been my lifelong goal. I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was in the second grade.
So I look forward to continuing to work on education, on libraries, on all the things that are important to me personally, but that are also very important to a civilized culture and the kind of culture and the society that we all want for our children.
MORRIS: All right.
BUSH: Thanks a lot.