Editor’s note: Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, visited UT Friday evening for the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumnus ceremony, where she was honored for her accomplishments. In 1995, as first lady of Texas, Bush founded the Texas Book Festival, which takes place at the Texas State Capitol and surrounding grounds this weekend. Bush sat down with the Texan to discuss reading in college and her impressions of UT.
Daily Texan: Why is it important for college students to study and read fiction and literature?
Laura Bush: I think the wider you read, and especially if you read fiction and literature, the broader you become as a person. For me, literature has been a part of my life for my whole life. It’s a guiding passion in my life — reading — so I just can’t imagine a life without reading literature. So I hope that students will make a real effort to read literature, and there are a lot of new terrific authors in the U.S. that write literature that are great.
But to read the classics, they become part of a whole vocabulary in your life, and an intellectual person often times knows that vocabulary because they know the different authors and characters and all the references that are in classic literature, [references] that just you hear in everyday life, really.
DT: What did you read in college that most influenced the way you think today?
Bush: I took a lot of literature courses. I was an English and education major … I remember reading a lot of D.H. Lawrence in one course that I really liked, including poetry of his. I’ve continued going to classes in Dallas; there’s something called the Dallas Institute, which is a group of mainly women. These classes would just be six weeks long, but we’d read Faulkner or Dostoyevsky, and those authors are really great to read in a class with a great teacher.
They’re difficult to read just by yourself and get, especially Faulkner, I think, so that’s why I think it’s really important to try to take classes, if you have the opportunity — literature classes, no matter what your degree is, and then continue to do that, continue to meet with a book club where you have a good speaker that’s an expert on a certain reader or writer. If you have an expert, it makes your knowledge of it that much deeper and your appreciation of it that much stronger.
DT: How has UT changed since you studied library science here?
Bush: The library school has changed tremendously. Now the library school is called the School of Information, and they have brought from Columbia and then developed on their own the best school for archivists in the country.
When I went to library school in 1973, it was in the HRC [Harry Ransom Center], where it is now. We were on the fourth floor, that was so great to go to library school in that building that had all the huge collections of writings. And of course the library school has changed and expanded and really become what libraries are now, which is much more information science because of all the technology. It’s still reading, and it’s still reading a lot of great books.