Shortly before marrying George W. Bush in 1977, Laura Welch made her fiancee promise that she would never have to give a speech during his political career - a promise that has long since been broken.

Laura Welch was born in Midland, Texas, in 1946. She received a Bachelor's degree in Education and worked as a public school teacher in Texas for several years. She returned to school and earned a Master's degree in Library Science in 1974 from the University of Texas at Austin.

Three years later, she met George W. Bush at a friend's house, and the couple married just months later. They have twin daughters, who recently graduated from college.

Mrs. Bush is widely regarded as a grounded and genuine person who is dedicated to the causes of education, literacy and children's rights. As First Lady, she works on several education-based initiatives. Her "ready to Read, Ready to Learn," program stresses that American children are eager to read.

She has also urged more Americans to become teachers and has contributed to programs promoting children's health.

In foreign policy, she has advocated greater rights for women and children in Afghanistan, and literacy throughout the Middle East.