Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush met with eight Iraqi women at SMU on May 14 as part of the delegation’s visit to the United States under the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
The exchange, which included several U.S. cities, was coordinated by World Learning Visitor Exchange Program in cooperation with the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. The women are officials in Iraq representing professions ranging from public works administration to nursing education.
Several SMU faculty members attended the event – Crista DeLuzio of the Clements Department of History and Carolyn Smith-Morris of the Department of Anthropology, both in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Maria Minniti, Cox School of Business; Jenia Turner, Dedman School of Law; and Susanne Scholz, Perkins School of Theology. SMU student Natalie Kashefi also attended. Gail Turner, wife of SMU President R. Gerald Turner, hosted a reception for the group; and Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs, was among those welcoming the delegation to campus.
The World Affairs Council was represented by its president, Jim Falk, and executive vice president Beth Huddleston, who also serves as a member of the board of the National Council for International Visitors. The Council serves as the Department of State’s coordinator of the International Visitor Leadership Program in Dallas and Fort Worth.
“Both President and Mrs. Bush spoke about the vital role women play in building and maintaining civil society and about how essential the guarantee of women’s rights is to a healthy democracy,” said DeLuzio. “The Iraqi women spoke eloquently about their courageous attempts to empower women and to further women’s rights in their country.
“I teach about the long and ongoing struggle for gender equality in the United States. This exchange inspired me to try to do more to educate my students about women’s movements around the world and to encourage them to think comparatively about women’s work on behalf of social justice and gender equality across time and place.”