Barbara Pierce Bush died last week at the age of 92. Though she may have lived in the White House before many millennials were politically aware, I think there are many lessons we can learn from her legacy.
1. She was privileged, but she was still down to earth.
Millennials have become increasingly discouraged with how out-of-touch politicians seem to be. I believe it is this phenomenon that drove many young people to support Bernie Sanders, who had plenty talking points about the dissonance between Washington’s elites and the rest of America. However, when news broke that Sanders actually owns three houses, millennials started to feel discouraged.
Barbara Bush was not hiding behind a fake veil of sympathy for those less fortunate than her; in fact, she was known for wearing fake pearls. Though she was well-off, she had charismatic quirks about her separated her from the rest of the pretentious D.C. crowd. Barbara Bush was unapologetically herself.
2. She cared about the less fortunate.
Barbara Bush cared deeply about disadvantaged Americans. In her time, she was persistent in her advocacy for literacy. She believed that education would be the key to solve many national problems. She founded The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, citing the importance of parental involvement in a child’s education as the number one indicator of literary success. She once explained, “The parent is the child’s first teacher.”
Additionally, during the AIDS epidemic of the early 90s, Barbara Bush humanized a very misunderstood group of people. She went to a home for HIV-infected infants and hugged the children there. In that moment, and in the rest of her life, she exuded compassion, love, and acceptance. It has been reported that her Secret Service code name was “Tranquility”, which exemplified her gentle and caring demeanor.
Millennials should appreciate a political figure who acts out of love and not out of political posturing—I think this is a characteristic we have grown up lacking in our politicians.
3. She prioritized family first.
Barbara Bush won the hearts of the American people across two presidents’ careers. Being the wife of the 41st President, and the mother of the 43rd President, she became known as “America’s grandmother.” Her influence over her husband and son during their time in office was greatly appreciated, leading some voters to wear pins saying “Re-elect Barbara’s husband” on election day in 1992. George W. Bush traced his outspokenness to his mother as well.
She was a devoted family member in the Bush family and stood by her husband and son in good times and bad. Barbara Bush was respected in the White House and made her opinions known to her family, who deemed her “the enforcer.” As a respected matriarchal figure for their family and the country, her influence was undeniable.
In today’s current political sphere, millennials are lacking such a character. We have not had someone to look up to as the great unifying figure our country needs.
Barbara Bush is an inspiration for all people across all spectrums of life, and she will continue to be coveted as a national treasure for years to come.