Learning from Barbara Bush

This past week, First Lady Barbara Bush passed away. Her passing has left a major impact on the news cycle, but also in the hearts and minds of many Americans and even people overseas who have come to realize what a legacy one woman had on the nation and the world.

I’m not someone who writes about politics very often. I’m pretty apolitical, at least in public, so I don’t want this to stand as a striking endorsement or condemnation of any policy. In any case, I have no living memory of the Bush (senior) Administration. What I am writing about is based strictly on my reflections on the accounts of people who knew Barbara Bush during her life.

What I write is based on what I have heard her character described as, but the reports are so consistent and so broad that I have no doubt in their veracity.

Be the first to accept people.

The most striking eulogies for Bush come from people that she hardly knew, yet who describe her with the same fond language they would use for their own grandmothers.

Barbara Bush was incredibly tolerant and open, and her actions during the AIDS epidemic showed both courage and compassion to those afflicted by a mysterious, stigmatized, and untreatable disease.

I cannot find anywhere an account of Barbara Bush condemning anyone–while it’s not good to speak ill of the dead, I doubt that such a sterling reputation comes from mere politeness.

I was reading an article detailing an interview with the First Lady, and I observed that there were many times where the author described her almost like a long-term friend, even though they had only had one occasion to meet.

That’s because Bush kept no secrets (except those belonging to other people) and embraced everyone around her. That’s an incredible, life-changing way to live.

Do something to help others.

Beyond Bush’s compassion and openness, there was also an altruism that stands out. The First Lady fought against homelessness and illiteracy, both by spearheading movements in an official capacity but also pouring in personal time and resources to assist others.

Despite a busy personal life and a large family of her own, it seems like almost every depiction of Barbara Bush shows her helping children other than her own. This selflessness is a key part of being a virtuous person.

Be humble.

One of the things that stands out to me about Barbara Bush’s lifestyle as First Lady is that she bucked the trend of being fashionable and hip (without losing charisma while doing so). Rather than dye her hair or seek to extend her beauty, Bush went to great distances to let her character, rather than her appearance, speak for her.

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