press secretary

On his first night in the White House, just a week after President Nixon’s unprecedented resignation from office, Steven Ford, Gerald Ford’s then 18-year-old son, sneaked his stereo onto the roof of the White House so that he could blast Led Zeppelin. Former first lady Laura Bush would have made a different selection. Her daughter, Barbara Bush, said the 43rd president’s wife is more of a Bob Marley fan.

Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush’s twin sister and daughter of President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, said her mother’s musical preferences serve as just one of the many sides to her personality the media rarely portrayed.

“I think people thought of our mom as kind of a cookie-cutter mother, because it’s much easier to see people as one-dimensional,” Hager said. “She’s a very strong lady. She just happens not to shout.”

Candid revelations about musical preferences were just a few of the personal anecdotes that surfaced at “The Enduring Legacies of America’s First Ladies,” an event hosted Friday by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The event featured three generations of women in the Bush family as well as Steven Ford, Lynda Johnson Robb, President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughter and several former White House staffers.

Speakers examined the role of the first lady, a position that former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said changes with each new administration.

Ford said a major component of his mother’s legacy was the way she brought her personal struggles with breast cancer and alcoholism to public attention.

“The moment she raised her hand and said, ‘My name is Betty, and I’m an alcoholic,’ she changed the stereotypes about the nature of the disease,” Ford said.

Barbara Bush described one of her mother’s roles as “comforter-in-chief” in the days following 9/11.

Laura Bush said this role as comforter was instinctive.

“I myself wanted the comfort of my mother’s voice,” Laura Bush said. “I knew kids everywhere would want that.”

Although both Barbara Bush and Ford highlighted events specific to their mother’s personal lives and events that occurred during their husband’s administrations, certain aspects of the first lady position remain constant. Lisa Caputo, Hillary Clinton’s former press secretary, said Clinton took a very public role in working with her husband on his health care initiatives and welfare reform, but she was not the first first lady to work with policy issues.

“[Clinton] was the first first lady to have an office in the West Wing,” Caputo said. “We were very up front about the fact that she was going to play a policy role and be an advisor to her husband, but in reality, we look throughout history and practically all first ladies have had a role in influencing policy. It just wasn’t at the forefront.”

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: Presidents' families share insights on first lady's public, personal role 

Celebrated journalist Bill Moyers makes an appearance in studio 6A of the CMB on Monday afternoon. The UT alumn and former White House Press Secretary spoke about issues in modern media, and engaged in a Q&A session at the end of his lecture.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Bill Moyers was preparing to pursue a Ph.D. when he received a call from Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was running for president and sought Moyers’ assistance. Moyers deviated from his plans for a doctorate degree and took the job as White House press secretary.

Moyers, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, spoke about his careers as both broadcast journalist and White House press secretary at an event sponsored by the School of Journalism and the Department of Radio-Television-Film on Monday.

Some of Moyers’ work includes hosting PBS programs “NOW with Bill Moyers” and “Bill Moyers’ Journal.” He has won more than 30 Emmy awards throughout his career, including a Lifetime Emmy Award in 2006. Moyers graduated from UT’s School of Journalism in 1956.

“He’s being gracious and coming back to his old school and wanting to talk to students,” said School of Journalism Director Glenn Frankel.

Moyers said when he started out as an undergraduate at North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), he wasn’t quite sure of what he wanted to do. He said he initially thought he would be an airforce pilot until he interned for U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson, who instructed him to go to Austin for more opportunity. He transferred to UT shortly after.

“I couldn’t imagine all that’s happened — you don’t know what the next 40-50 years will bring,” Moyers said. “I was still debating my future in my head.”

Moyers said while attending the University he was torn between journalism, religion and teaching, but his instincts led him to journalism. As a student, he worked for The Daily Texan and held a simultaneous job at KTBC. The Texan, he said, taught him the value of telling the truth.

“We had a great editor. It was professional,” he said. “It taught me the importance of getting [reporting] right.”

Moyers said he never really wanted to work as White House press secretary but it did teach him about ethics.

“Almost every issue that crossed my desk, almost every story I ever dealt with, had some kind of ethics,” Moyers said. “I had been prepared for a future I hadn’t anticipated.”

Moyers, who left his position as press secretary to work in news publication and later worked for CBS and NBC, also discussed his career in broadcast journalism and the importance of criticizing our own institutions.

“Journalism is to me about gathering, weighing, organizing, judging and presenting information,” Moyers said. “A lot of journalism on television isn’t about that at all.”

In the midst of a changing media and a tough job market, Moyers said he still encourages students with that burning desire to pursue journalism.

“I’ve been fortunate to take what I have learned and share it with a large audience — to me, that’s an intoxicating pursuit. It puts you at the intersection of so much.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: UT crossroads for journalist