First lady Laura Bush accepted colorful bouquets of paper flowers after joining 100 children at the Guadalupe Boys and Girls Club for a performance of the bilingual play “Tomás and the Library Lady” on Friday. The former teacher cheerfully mingled with the kids, who surrounded her and posed for dozens of snapshots under the watchful eyes of Secret Service agents.
“Wasn’t that great? Didn’t you like that?” Bush asked the children after the Childsplay theater production in the gym of the club, which was transformed into 1940s-era Iowa for the show.
“This is a very interesting story, because it’s true,” Bush told the children, who ranged in age from 6 to 16.
The play depicts the childhood of Tomás Rivera, the son of migrant workers, who learns to read English and develops a love for books. The boy, in turn, teaches the librarian to speak Spanish. Rivera later becomes the chancellor of the University of California at Riverside.
“It’s just a wonderful story of our country, of the opportunities that people can have,” Bush said afterward.
The play also emphasizes the importance of the family and the relationship between teachers and students, she said.
Bush, an advocate for educational causes, had been aware of the play, which is based on the book of the same title, and had looked forward to attending a performance for some time, she said.
Mia Bravo, 9, of Guadalupe sat near Bush for the two-actor show. The first lady’s visit to the club was special and exciting, Mia said.
“I never knew that a president’s wife would come. It surprised us,” she said.
Earlier, Bush headlined a $500-a-plate political fundraiser at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas. The event benefited Sen. Jon Kyl, a two-term Republican incumbent who is engaged in a high-dollar re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Jim Pederson, a wealthy shopping center developer.
Bush said Kyl’s re-election will contribute to the success of her husband’s “ambitious” agenda during the final two years of his term. President Bush’s top priorities are immigration reform, fighting terrorism, rebuilding the Gulf Coast and lessening the U.S.'s dependency on foreign oil.
She also credited Kyl for his work on a variety of issues concerning women, children and health care. She noted Kyl has introduced legislation to help fund breast cancer research and to create the Childhelp National Registry, which catalogs cases of child abuse and neglect.
Outside the resort, more than two dozen war protesters demonstrated during her appearance.
“Too many Americans and Iraqis have unnecessarily died or been wounded in this war. The war on terror has become the war of error,” said Mitchell Rubin, spokesman for the Arizona End the War Coalition.
The protesters called for Kyl to demand an “orderly and timely withdrawal” from Iraq, where the U.S. military death toll has reached 2,500. Among the protesters was former state Sen. John Verkamp, who launched a late bid to run as a Democrat against Kyl, but failed to file a qualifying nomination packet with state Secretary of State’s Office by Wednesday’s deadline.
The first lady’s visit came just days after an independent poll showed Kyl held a 17-percentage point lead against Pederson. The survey of 500 likely voters showed 52 percent favored Kyl, while 35 percent favored Pederson. The poll by Rasmussen Reports, of Ocean Grove, N.J., was released Sunday.