First Lady Laura Bush is taking her first official policy role of the administration: overseeing a new program to assist troubled boys and curb gang violence. The Los Angeles Times say the program, announced in the president’s State of the Union address, will funnel $150 million over three years to churches and other community groups that mentor at-risk children, particularly boys ages 8 to 17 in cities prone to gangs. It is an expansion of Bush’s faith-based initiative, which has won praise from Christian conservatives and black religious leaders who believe religious social service organizations are often more effective than government.
“Taking on gang life will be one part of a broader outreach to at-risk youth, which involves parents and pastors, coaches and community leaders, in programs ranging from literacy to sports,” Bush said. The first lady, who has become a far more public figure than when she moved into the White House in 2001. In taking on a more policy-oriented program, she is moving closer to the realm of Hillary Clinton, through an issue less controversial than health care.