By Ben Slattery
Barbara Pierce Bush was remembered Saturday, April 21, for her strong character and sharp wit which led her to become one of the most popular first ladies in U.S. history. She was laid to rest by a political dynasty in which she was a key figure, including her husband and son, whom she helped reach the presidency. An estimated 1500 people showed up to mourn the former first lady, including the past three presidents and first ladies and First Lady Melania Trump, reports BBC.
“She was our teacher and role model on how to live a life with purpose and meaning,” son and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in an emotional eulogy, recalling his mother’s final days. “She was beautiful until the day she died.”
Saturday’s packed service at the family church in Houston also featured eulogies by two others: her longtime friend Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker, and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography of her husband President George H.W. Bush.
Meacham noted that Bush is unique in being only the second woman in U.S. history to have been the wife of one president and the mother of another. The only other woman to have played that role was Abigail Adams, whose husband John was the second president, and her son John Quincy Adams was the sixth.
Although Barbara Bush’s term in office came before many college students were born or aware of politics, her legacy still impacts many of them in one way or another. Political Science major Nick De Furia (‘19) was in Washington, D.C. the day of the service and recounts that every flag was at half mast. For De Furia, seeing all of the former Presidents and First Ladies pay their respects to Barbara Bush was a good “morale builder” for the nation. De Furia says he recalls Barbara Bush fondly, although he doesn’t have any real memories of her. Having been born two years after her husband left office, he considers her term an effective one, stating “George H.W. Bush was a fine President and she did as good a job supporting him.”
Another political science major, Alex Hoyt (‘20), remembers Barbara Bush in a different light. Although Hoyt respects the former First Lady for championing the cause of raising literacy in America, he believes it’s more important to focus on the “actual politics championed by her family during the Bush administration.” Hoyt states that “if Barbara truly wanted to fight illiteracy than she would have opposed the trickle-down economic stance her family supported that contributed so much to poverty and illiteracy in economically depressed areas.” For these reasons Hoyt considers Bush’s campaign against illiteracy “superficial.” Despite his critical stance on her policies, Hoyt extended some praise to her for “setting the formula for the modern First Lady.”
Bush passed away at the age of 92 in her home.
Photo Courtesy of NBC News