Barbara Bush Remembered In Her Own, Never-Minced, Words
Unlike her trademark three-strand pearl necklace, Barbara Bush was known for her authenticity.
The former first lady to President George H.W. Bush, and mother of President George W. Bush, died this week at the age of 92. Her funeral is Saturday, and those eulogizing her might not have to look far for inspiration — to her own words.
Bush spoke bluntly and unapologetically throughout her life. When asked to deliver the 1990 commencement address at Wellesley College, one of the Seven Sisters, 150 graduates protested the choice. The students argued her recognition was based solely on the achievements of her husband — not the Wellesley Way.
Mrs. Bush's response: "No big deal. Even I was 20 once."
(Barbara Bush herself attended another Seven Sister, Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She dropped out of school shortly before marrying then navy pilot George H.W. upon his safe return in World War II.)
The rest is a history chronicled by blunt talk and biting one-liners that inspired some and irritated others. Here are just a select few:
1. The enforcer
"He leads by example. I lead by denying some things. And I am the enforcer, there's no question about it. Do I like that role? No. Would I rather he had done it? Yes."
2. On why she wrote a book after her husband lost the 1992 election
"Well because my husband couldn't keep a job."
3. 'Enough of the Bushes'
"There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes."
— NBC's Today Show April 25, 2013
4. On talking to reporters
"Avoid this crowd like the plague. And if they quote you, make damn sure they heard you."
— Advice to Hillary Clinton on talking to reporters, Aug 24, 1992
5. On Trump
"I don't think about him at all."
— When asked what she thinks about Donald Trump, CNN interview Feb 5 2016
6. On Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1984
"I can't say it, but it rhymes with 'rich.'"
— Oct. 15, 1984
7. On not watching coverage leading up to the Iraq war
"But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's going to happen, and how many this and what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that? And watch him suffer."
—To Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, March 18, 2003
8. On Katrina refugees staying in the Houston Astrodome
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
— Sept. 5, 2005
9. On the criticism from a pundit that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life
"Raising five boys is a handful, trust me. Raising George Walker was not easy."
— On Fox
10. On women in the White House
"Who knows? Somewhere out there in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. And I wish him well."
-- Wellesley commencement, 1990
11. On finding love
"I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up."
It wouldn't be the last...
12. She and George H.W. Bush were married 73 years. How did that sustain?
"One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is because he made me laugh."
— Wellesley commencement, 1990
13. Invoking Ferris Bueller
"Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off, 'Life moves pretty fast; and if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you're going to miss it.'"
-- Wellesley commencement, 1990. Bueller was released four years earlier and was a cult hit at the time
14. On last regrets
"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 friend, a child or a parent."
— At the Wellesley commencement speech 1990
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.