What in the world, demanded 150 “outraged” Wellesley students, could Barbara Bush have to say in a commencement speech at the prestigious woman’s college? The year was 1990. Barbara Bush, about to turn 65, had ridden to prominence on the coattails of her husband rather than on her own merit, the enlightened students intimated.
As the WSJ points out, this First Lady, with her white hair and her signature fake pearls, was neither secretary of state delivering the latest policy on the Middle East nor a billionaire sharing her story of how she rose to the top. How could just a housewife, though she herself had been a student at one of the elite “Seven Sisters,” say anything relevant to these protesting elite students?
Asked about the stir of her delivering the commencement speech at Wellesley, Mrs. Bush responded, “No big deal. Even I was 20 once.”
Mrs. Bush reminded students that they needed to make an “effort to learn about and respect difference, to be compassionate with one another, to cherish our own identity and to accept unconditionally the same in others.”
For several years, you’ve had impressed upon you the importance to your career of dedication and hard work. That’s true. But as important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer or business leader will be, you are a human being first and those human connections—with spouses, with children, with friends—are the most important investments you will ever make.”
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.”
In wrapping up her commencement speech, Mrs. Bush spoke of her hope that each graduate would realize her dream in life.
Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse.
I wish him well.
And with those words, the crowd of 5,000 gave the First Lady a prolonged, standing ovation.
R.I.P. Barbara Bush.