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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Remembering Barbara Bush

Barbara+Bush+attended+the+United+Nations+International+Literacy+Day+Celebration+in+New+York+in+1989.
Photo by Courtesy of the Barbara P. Bush website

Barbara Bush attended the United Nations International Literacy Day Celebration in New York in 1989.

Throughout Barbara Pierce Bush’s life, her work to help others and bring generosity to those in need was always at the forefront of her priorities.
Born on June 8, 1925, Barbara Bush’s life was filled with a love of reading. According to her biography, she was encouraged to read by her family.
“She recalled that her childhood evenings were spent with her family members gathered around together,” her biography reads. “Each of them engrossed in their reading materials.”
Barbara Bush’s son Neil was diagnosed with dyslexia, which pushed her to bring family literacy to national attention. According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Barbara Bush said she believed through reading, the nation could come closer to solving its problems.
“She wanted to devote her time and energy to a cause that would make a positive and meaningful difference to as many people around the country as possible,” a statement from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy said. “As she jogged around Houston’s Memorial Park one day, she pondered everything in society that worried her: homelessness, crime, hunger and drugs. She realized that all of the conditions she was concerned about would improve if more people could read, write and comprehend.”
When Barbara Bush first entered the White House as the second lady and wife of Vice President George H.W. Bush, her biography said she began to build relationships and take an active role in several literacy organizations while looking at statistics and solutions used in both child and adult literacy. Once her husband became president and she became first lady, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to receive grants from public and private institutions to support family literacy.
Warren Finch, director of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, said the foundation pushed to help families overall and Barbara Bush played a big role in advocating family literacy.
“Her big cause was literacy, not just children’s literacy but family literacy,” Finch said. “She’s done a lot of programs for us over the years. She’s done an annual program for us that she came out and read to an audience of 600 schools students and then many years we would have 50,000 to 750,000 students watching that program live via long distance education.”
According to the foundation, in the past 29 years $110 million has been raised to create and expand literacy programs in all 50 states.
Finch said in addition to her work in family literacy, Barbara Bush also worked to address social issues, including homelessness, AIDS and teenage pregnancy and created a national radio program, called Mrs. Bush’s Story Time, to stress the importance of reading aloud to children.
“During the vice presidency and presidency, AIDS and health issues were issues she worked with,” Finch said. “I remember her visiting children with AIDS and she took Mrs. Gorbachev to a food pantry to help others.”
Peter Roussel, former press secretary to President George H.W. Bush and Warner Endowed Chair for the Department of Communication at Sam Houston State University said the work Barbara Bush did for people wasn’t about the office, it was genuine.
“Barbara Bush, there’s two words that sum her up and that’s ‘she cares,’” Roussel said. “She has cared about other people from all walks of life. She’s a person that has truly cared. Over the years I’ve seen her dedicated to not only literacy, but also other charities and individuals.”
After the Bush family left the presidential office, Roussel said they continued to work toward their causes and put others first.
“They could have taken it easy, enjoyed themselves and enjoyed life,” Roussel said. “They chose to do for others and I think that speaks volumes about them. They just care about people and it’s totally genuine. The Bushes are what I would call ‘people people.’ I just applaud them for the approach they take to life since the presidency and before then too.”

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  • Barbara Bush read excerpts from “Rushmore” to children at the Bush School in 2015.

    Photo by File
  • George H.W. Bush and Barbara with George W., Neil, Marvin and Jeb in Midland, Texas, circa 1957.

    Photo by Courtesy of the Barbara P. Bush website
  • George H.W. and Barbara Bush pose with their dogs, Mini and Bibi.

    Photo by Courtesy of the Barbara P. Bush website
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