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For a long time, I have wanted to read a biography of First Lady Barbara Bush. While I occasionally disagreed with her stances on issues, I have long respected her heart for her husband, children, and grandchildren and the leadership role she played in their lives. I have wanted to understand how such a strong-willed woman who so often spoke her mind very bluntly to her family could be loved and respected so deeply by them.

Yesterday I began listening to one of her biographies. I will likely have several lessons to share from the life of this woman who spent her life, not in a powerful personal career, but in a powerful career as the matriarch of a powerful family. In the first few pages, I have already learned one of those lessons.

In 1990 Wellesley College invited Barbara Bush to give a commencement address to its graduating seniors. Wellesley is a college for women in Wellesley, Massachusetts. One hundred fifty Wellesley students signed a petition condemning the choice of First Lady Bush, saying that she did not represent the kind of career women the college sought to educate. The students’ reaction deeply hurt the First Lady.

Barbara Bush did give the commencement address that day. Raisa Gorbachev, wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, also gave some remarks.

First Lady Barbara Bush and Raisa Gorbachev at Wellesley College, June 1, 1990. Courtesy National Archives.

In the address, the first lady gave excellent advice that will encourage you. She said:

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.

Barbara and George H. W. Bush with their first child, George W. Bush, c. 1947 while the future 41st president was a student at Yale. Courtesy National Archives.

Barbara Bush’s words were true, and she lived what she said.

Vice President and Mrs. Bush with their granddaughters, Barbara and Jenna Bush, at the Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C. on January 19, 1989, the day before Bush became president of the United States. Photo Credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Thank you for living her lesson.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She watches over the activities of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Proverbs 31:25-29



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