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Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release June 24, 1996


On Sunday, June 23, The Washington Post ran a front page excerpt from Bob Woodward's latest book, The Choice, which recounts meetings I had with Jean Houston and Mary Catherine Bateson and suggests that Ms. Houston is my "spiritual adviser." While I have had a number of conversations with Jean Houston, it is simply not true that she is my spiritual adviser.

For more than three years, I have met with a wide range of contemporary thinkers, including Roman Catholic cardinals, bishops, nuns and priests; Protestant clergy and lay leaders; Jewish rabbis; Muslim clerics; theologians, ethicists and religious activists; historians, political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists; professional communicators, management consultants and motivational speakers; business and labor leaders, writers, artists, poets and entertainers, and many other Americans from all walks of life who have interesting ideas or insights into what's happening in our country today.

Mary Catherine Bateson and Jean Houston are two of many people who have been generous in sharing their ideas with me. Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, is herself a distinguished field anthropologist and author of a now classic book on women's lives, Composing a Life. Jean Houston, who has published more than a dozen books, has served as a consultant to major corporations, as well as worked with the international children's organization, UNICEF.

Both women were helpful to me in discussing their work in foreign cultures as I prepared for a trip to South Asia in the spring of 1995. They were also helpful when I returned from South Asia and was facing the task of writing my book about the challenges of raising children in the modern world. One of the many meetings I held at the time about the themes of my book included Jean Houston and Mary Catherine Bateson.

During the hours of free-wheeling discussion, Jean Houston suggested that I imagine a conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt, who grappled with the difficult social issues of her day. This was an interesting intellectual exercise to help spark my own thoughts; it was a brainstorming session for my book -- not a spiritual event. In fact, in previous public speeches, I had used the device of an imaginary conversation with Mrs. Roosevelt as a way of discussing what Mrs. Roosevelt would think about the problems of contemporary society and how she would approach her role as First Lady.

Imagine my surprise when what I have been doing since 1993 in front of large audiences was now being reported as a sensational revelation.

The bottom line is: I have no spiritual advisers or any other alternative to my deeply held Methodist faith and traditions upon which I have relied since childhood.

And I do wonder what Eleanor Roosevelt might think of all this.