Barbara Bush Exemplified Motherhood in a Life Well-Lived

Mother’s Day is today. We wanted to take a moment to recognize and appreciate all the mothers and mother figures out there.

In honor of today, we felt it was fitting to memorialize Barbara Bush, the matriarch of the Bush family who recently passed away.

Barbara Bush made many wise statements during her 92 years of life.

But there’s one that stands out in my mind. She made this remark during her Wellesley College commencement address in 1990:

“Your success as a family… our success as a nation… depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house.” Barbara Bush was only the second woman ever with both a husband and a son to serve as U.S. president. She knew what she was talking about.

I’m sure many of the moms out there can relate to those words of wisdom.

A Great Mom, Wife and Patriot

Mrs. Bush passed away earlier this year, on April 17, at her Houston home. Her death followed a series of illnesses and hospitalizations.

She was the wife of former Vice President and 41st President George H. W. Bush. Barbara was also the mother of 43rd President George W. Bush, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and four others.

An inspiration to many, Mrs. Bush comes to our minds today on Mother’s Day. She personified motherhood through her strength, devotion and love.

She was devoted to her own family, including her 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She also dedicated much of her time to other families through her Foundation for Family Literacy.

Jeb Bush Presents Eulogy

At her funeral on April 21, she was honored as one of the most beloved political matriarchs in American history. Four former presidents attended the memorial of her life. Including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

During his eulogy, Jeb Bush said, “We learned to strive to be genuine and authentic by the best role model in the world.”

He said that his mother’s style of raising her kids was a “benevolent dictatorship.” But then he quipped, “it wasn’t always benevolent.”

One of her nicknames in the family was “The Enforcer.” She was a very loving mom, but didn’t take any guff in her high-powered family.

Staying True to Herself

Barbara Bush was unpretentious and down to earth. She unashamedly wore fake pearls, enjoyed takeout tacos and walked the dog in her bathrobe.

She also made fun of herself. Including her prematurely white hair. And the fact that some people thought she was her husband’s mother. But she was also strong-willed, politically shrewd and frequently blunt.

Barbara was married to George H.W. Bush for 73 years. That made them the longest married couple in presidential history.

She summed up her adult life very well in her 2015 autobiography, titled Barbara Bush: A Memoir.

She wrote: “Long ago, I decided in life that I had to have priorities. I put my children and my husband at the top of the list. That’s a choice that I never regretted.”

Literacy and Volunteerism

Barbara Bush turned to volunteering as a way to cope with the death of her 3-year-old daughter in 1953.

She turned to literacy due to the dyslexia suffered by one of her sons. In both cases, she made a difference through her efforts.

Writing in her memoir about literacy, she said she came to realize that “…a more literate America would benefit every single thing I worry about: crime, unemployment, pollution, teenage pregnancy, school drop-outs, women who are trapped into welfare, and therefore poverty, etc. You name it, I worried about it.”

Only a few weeks into her husband’s presidency in 1989, she established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

The foundation has raised approximately $110 million. All for the purpose of creating or supporting literacy programs for men, women and children in every state.

In Georgia, this program helps teenage moms who left high school earn their GED diplomas.

In Alabama, non-English speakers are taught the language. And how to communicate what they’ve learned to their pre-kindergarten children.

And the foundation does not just carry her name. As of two months ago, Mrs. Bush was participating in a video chat at one of the organization’s reading events.

Mother’s Day is Over 100 Years Old

Mother’s Day began in the U.S. in the early 20th century. Another strong-willed woman, Anna Jarvis, pushed for Mother’s Day to be recognized as a national holiday.

In 1908, she held a memorial service for her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Her mother had passed away in 1905. 50 years after caring for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War.

It was an uphill battled for Anna Jarvis, but by 1911, every U.S. state was observing the holiday.

A Day to Reflect on Motherhood

Today, I’m sure you will be honoring your mother or her legacy.

But I’d encourage you to also take a moment to reflect on the life of Barbara Bush. And on the wonderful mother she was to her children.

She taught us much about dignity and grace under pressure.

Whether you’re a mother or father or neither, we can all learn a lot from her. And we can all strive to make a difference like she did.

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