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First Lady Biography: Barbara Bush
BARBARA PIERCE BUSH
Place: New York City, New York
Date: 8 June, 1925
Marvin Pierce, born 17 June, 1893, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania; President of McCall [Publishing] Corporation; died 17 July, 1969
Pauline Robinson Pierce, born 1896, Richwood, Ohio; Pauline Pierce served as the Garden Club of America conservation chairman. Her father had served on the Ohio Supreme Court; died, 23 September, 1949, Harrison County, New York in car accident.
*Marvin Pierce married a second time in June 1952, to artist and Associated Press reporter Willa Martin.
English, German, Scottish, French; Kate Pritzel, the mother of Barbara Bush's paternal grandfather, was born on December 19, 1841 in Sweizel, Germany, eventually immigrating to Pennsylvania, where she married Jonas James Pierce. She is also a direct descendant of Henry Sampson, an English immigrant who arrived in the colonies on the Mayflower. Some twenty generations back, Barbara Bush had an ancestor, Thomas De Saluzza, who was born in Saluzza-Cuneo, Italy, in 1286; he and his wife Leugia De Eva moved to England. She also shares several family lines with Abigail Adams, the only other woman who was both wife and mother to U.S. Presidents. One chart claims that some thirty generations back into her genealogy that Lady Godiva was an ancestor. Barbara Pierce Bush is also a fourth cousin four times removed of President Franklin Pierce, and not a third great grandniece as was previously understood. They share an early New England ancestor named Thomas Pierce, and she has admitted her disappointment at the 14th president's low rating among historians.
Birth Order and Siblings:
Third of four children; one sister, two brothers: Martha Pierce Rafferty (born 1920), James Pierce (1921-1993), Scott Pierce (born 1930)
Grey eyes, brown hair that turned grey and eventually her signature snowy white color
Milton Public School , 1931-1937; Rye, New York; Rye Country Day School, 1937-1940, Rye, New York; Ashley Hall, boarding high school, 1940-1943, Charleston, South Carolina; Smith College, 1943-1944, dropped out after freshman year
Occupation before Marriage:
With a father whose professional career was in magazine publishing, Barbara Bush's love of reading was encouraged early. She recalled that her childhood evenings were spent with her family members gathered together, each of them engrossed in their reading material. Although the Pierce family had servants and enjoyed a more privileged life than most families during the Depression, they were not among the wealthiest set of Rye, New York. Barbara Bush had a sense of mischief and wit even as a child. She was also athletic, especially enjoying swimming, tennis and bike riding. At a 1941 Christmas dance, when she was only 16 years old, she met George Herbert Walker Bush, her future husband, who was then a senior at the boarding school Phillips Academy Andover. There was an immediate mutual attraction and they began writing to each other. She went as his date to his senior prom. Bush completed pilot training by 1943, becoming the youngest pilot then in the navy. The same year Barbara Bush graduated from Ashley Hall and entered Smith College. Bush named his bomber plane "Barbara" after her. The early forties were lively and active years for Barbara Bush. She went to work during the summers, first at a Lord & Taylor department store in Greenwich, Connecticut, then a nuts and bolts factory that provided supplies for the U.S. war effort. She made a cross-country train trip with the German nurse of her baby niece because the woman feared being assumed as a Nazi spy. In California, she tried surfing. When she began Smith College, Barbara Bush wrote that it opened her perceptions about the world: it was the first racially integrated school she attended. She also made the freshman soccer team and served as captain.
One and a half years after their meeting, Barbara Pierce and George Bush became engaged, just before Bush went off to war during World War II as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot, in which capacity he would fly 58 combat missions. She later admitted that her attention was not on academics but on her fiancé: he was nearly killed after being shot down on September 2, 1944. When he returned on leave, Barbara dropped out of college in Northampton, Massachusetts. Two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they married.
19 years old to George Herbert Walker Bush (born 12 June, 1924) Navy Lieutenant Pilot (junior grade), Yale freshman student, on 6 January, 1945 at First Presbyterian Church, Rye, New York; after a honeymoon in New York City where they saw Meet Me in St. Louis at Radio city Music Hall and then Sea Island, Georgia. For the first eight months of their marriage, Barbara Bush moved from Michigan to Maine to Virginia as her husband's new squadron training and formation required his presence at different naval bases in those states.
Six children, four sons, two daughters; George Walker Bush (born 6 July, 1946), Pauline Robinson "Robin" Bush (20, December 20, 1949 - 11 October, 1953), John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born 11 February, 1953), Neil Mallon Bush (born 22 January, 1955), Marvin Pierce Bush (born 22 December, 1956), Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch (born 18 August, 1959)
George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States in 2000, making him the second presidential son to attain the nation's highest office. Jeb Bush was elected governor of Florida in 1998.
In May, 2000, Robin Bush was re-interred at a gravesite on the grounds of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Occupation after Marriage:
As a newlywed, Barbara Bush moved with her husband as he continued to train as a navy pilot with his squadron during World War II at three bases around the country (see above). He was assigned to the VT-153 torpedo bomber squadron at the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach as the final World War II air assault on Japan was being prepared. That mission never took place because President Truman dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, ending the war. Newlyweds George and Barbara Bush participated in the public celebration of V-J Day ("Victory Over Japan") in the streets of Virginia Beach.
World War II ended while Bush was training with his new squadron; accepted at Yale, Barbara Bush moved with him to New Haven, Connecticut where she worked at the college campus store until giving birth to George W. Bush, her first child, in July of 1946. Upon Bush's graduation, he decided to relocate to Odessa, Texas and enter the oil business, starting as an equipment clerk for the large Dresser Industries, a holding company with oil drilling subsidiaries that was owned by a close friend and classmate of his father. They then moved to Los Angeles, where he became a drilling-bit salesman and moved to numerous locations in the southern California area, including Whittier, a town then represented in Congress by Richard Nixon. The Bushes would move some twenty-nine times during their marriage. They returned to Texas, settling in Midland in 1950 and shortly thereafter Bush co-founded his own oil development company that merged three years later with another company to form Zapata Oil.
While her husband was often away on business, Barbara Bush's life was strictly confined to the traditional responsibilities of motherhood and housekeeping, as well as some civic activities including teaching Sunday school and volunteering for the local theater company, YMCA, United Way and hospital. Nevertheless, even her role as mother would have later public impact. The death of their two-year old daughter Robin, from leukemia in October 1953 was a tragedy for the family, the stress from which has been stated as the reason for Barbara Bush's brown hair starting to turn white) but it would lead her to support numerous leukemia and cancer research and treatment programs. Her son Neil's diagnosis as dyslexic, she began a lifelong interest in reading and literacy issues. When Barbara Bush had to drive her children across the country and up to her husband's family summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, she was accompanied by two African-American women, Julia May Cooper and Otha Fitzgerald and witnessed for herself for the first time, the reality of racial bigotry as the black women were not permitted to stay in hotels or motels or eat in restaurants in the South along with Barbara Bush and her children. Barbara Bush was appalled at segregation, and refused to dine or sleep where the other women were not permitted. She and her husband had already become members and supporters of the United Negro College Fund, an association that would continue into the White House years and beyond.
In 1959, the family moved to Houston, Texas where Bush was elected Republican Party chairman of Harris County three years later. In 1964, Barbara Bush participated in the first of a lifetime of political campaigns, an effort to elect her husband U.S. Senator from Texas. Although he lost, it put the Bushes into the national spotlight. He was elected to Congress in 1966, and again two years later, giving Barbara Bush her first introduction to the life of a political spouse in Washington. She became active in various charities and Republican women's activities. Bush lost a second bid for the Senate in 1970, but President Richard Nixon named him Ambassador to United Nation, giving Barbara Bush the opportunity to begin a lifetime of friendships and acquaintances among international political leaders. She had advised her husband against accepting Nixon's offer to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee because of the inevitable damage he would suffer by association as the Watergate scandal was burgeoning.
In appreciation of Bush's party loyalty in having taken the chairmanship, Nixon's successor Gerald Ford named Bush as head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, China in 1974. It was a brief period of time when Barbara Bush could enjoy time with her husband while he was on assignment, the couple often bicycling to explore the city. It was in marked contrast to his next assignment, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post he held until 1977. During that time, when they returned to live in Washington, Barbara Bush was unable to participate in any conversations with her husband about his work, since he was dealing with top secret issues. This sense of isolation, as well as a sudden perception that her life had less value than those of younger women who were now increasingly achieving their goals rather than helping their husband's achieve theirs led to a brief period when she suffered from depression. Although Barbara Bush later regretted that she did not seek professional help, she found understanding in her husband. She also determined to strike out more on her own, delivering speeches with a slide show about her life in China, and volunteering at a hospice, the Washington Home, where she undertook many humbling duties that served the dying, including bathing and feeding them, and cleaning.
No member of George Bush's staff or supporters could equal the fervor with which his wife would in her defense of his public service record and praise for his personal qualities when he ran in the presidential primaries for the Republican nomination in 1980. Barbara Bush disclosed at that time her support for continuing the effort to have the Equal Rights Amendment ratified and her belief that the Supreme Court decision on the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies was a correct one, views also expressed by her husband. This put them somewhat at odds with the conservative wing of the party led by former California governor Ronald Reagan that was then eclipsing the moderate wing with which the Bushes had been identified. Thus, when Bush accepted Reagan's offer to run as his vice president, he and Barbara Bush had to sublimate their different views. During her eight years as the wife of the Vice President (20 January, 1981 - 20, January, 1989), Barbara Bush determined to make no news that could potentially detract attention from the First Lady Nancy Reagan. The two women were not personally close. Barbara Bush did, however, begin to take an active role in several literacy organizations and familiarized herself with many of the statistics, solutions and efforts being made to confront both child and adult illiteracy. Barbara Bush also traveled the world extensively with her husband on his official trips. Now comfortable with speaking to groups, her public addresses took on a quality of self-deprecating wit. When, however, she made sharp offhand remarks about the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, they were widely reported in the media and she publicly apologized and also telephoned Ferraro.
Presidential Campaign and Inauguration:
Barbara Bush had the knowledge and experience of two presidential campaigns as a vice presidential candidate's wife by the time her husband was nominated for the presidency at the 1988 Republican Convention. She broke precedent by becoming the first candidate's spouse to address the convention that nominated her husband, focusing on the candidate as a family man. The Bush campaign made generous use of the large Bush clan, including television commercials that showed George and Barbara Bush with some of their twelve grandchildren. The message underscored an unspoken difference with the Reagans, whose family members were sometimes in discord with them. Also contrasting with Nancy Reagan was the image of Barbara Bush that only emphasized her domestic interests in gardening, family life and church. She herself became adept at drawing attention to unthreatening full head of white hair, matronly figure and disinterest in wearing designer clothing. She also avoided discussion of political issues and controversy throughout the campaign, claiming she did not know enough to discuss anything except to repeat and defend her husband's views. She would express her views on some issues, such as support of the death penalty for hardened criminals, if they concurred with those of the candidate. There has been ample evidence from those who interacted with her during the campaign, however, to suggest that she was actively involved in the practical political moves, responses and directives of the campaign strategy. Publicly, she would either joke about or vigorously deny the printed but unproven rumors that her husband had once had a relationship with a woman member of his staff.
Following his 1989 swearing-in ceremony, George and Barbara Bush revived the Inauguration Day tradition begun by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter of walking part of the parade route back to the White House. She and President Bush revived a second, more ancient Inaugural tradition - the first open house Inaugural reception since Taft. On the morning following the swearing-in ceremony, once the Bushes were installed in their new home, a stream of citizens that had waited through the night, were greeted by the new President and First Lady and toured through the mansion. There is also some suggestion that Barbara Bush may have influenced a portion of her husband's Inaugural Address, specifically addressing social issues that she would admit were "important to me" but would only say her influence was one of "osmosis."
At the 1992 Republican Convention which renominated her husband for a second term, Barbara Bush was a popular speaker who seemed to be one of the few prominent figures there who were able to bring the gap between the two wings of the party, moderates and conservatives, remarking that "however you define family, that's what we mean by family values." Just prior to the convention, she had also stated empathically that she did not believe the issue of abortion should be addressed in its platform and that it was "a private matter," suggesting she was "pro-choice" and against the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, a fact she confirmed afterwards in her post-White House memoirs. She also criticized the Republican National Committee chairman Rich Bond for permitting campaign attacks on the views of the spouse of the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. On the campaign trail, she was a vigorous and personal defender of George Bush's personal qualities, presidential record and professional qualifications. Despite her own enormous appeal to many citizens, it was not enough to affect a re-election for her husband.
63 years old
20 January 1989 - 20 January, 1993
The hallmark of Barbara Bush's tenure as First Lady was her focused campaign to bring national attention to, and help eradicate illiteracy in America. Having been involved in the issue for eight previous years as the Vice President's wife, she was not only able to immediately begin her efforts following the Inauguration, but had already a national network of support in place, consisting of experts, publishers, financial supporters, volunteers, school administrators, and national, state and local civic leaders. Early in the administration, Barbara founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, a private organization that solicited grants from public and private institutions to support literacy programs. "I'm talking about the big, bouncy kind [of family], the single parent, extended families, divorced, homeless and migrant," she clarified. At the time of her tenure, statistics showed that 35 million adults could not read above the eight-grade level and that 23 million were not beyond a fourth-grade level. She appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show addressing the issue, and made regular broadcasts on Mrs. Bush's Story Time, a national radio program that stressed the importance of reading aloud to children. One aspect of adopting literacy as an issue that provided Barbara Bush with an opportunity to address a wide variety of topical issues was, as she pointed out, that a person's inability to read or fully comprehend what they might be able to partially read could have a devastating impact on all elements of their lives: education, employment, housing, safety, health, parenthood, crime, travel. She did go on record as stating that she did not believe there should be a law that established English as the official language of the United States because she felt it had "racial overtones." Thus she was able to address many social problems that were unique to the era of her husband's presidency of the early 1990's like homelessness, AIDS, and teenage pregnancy.
During her first week in the White House, Barbara Bush brought national attention to the needs of indigent and homeless families by making a visit to "Martha's Table" an inner-city center providing meals for poor families and daytime and after-school activities for homeless children, and also running a mobile soup-and-sandwich kitchen through the streets of Washington. She donated her family's used clothing to thrift stores which raised money for charitable organizations and also offered low-cost resale to the needy. Often visiting homeless family shelters, Barbara Bush also publicly raised an issue that was rarely considered in coping with the problem - abandoned, single, unmarried mothers, many of them teenagers, who were receiving no help from the fathers of the children. Although she assumed the traditional view of the Republican Party that social programs were best funded and administered by private charities and organizations rather than by the government, she was not averse to claiming government responsibility in some cases, once remarking at a center for homeless children, "forget about government cutbacks."
Barbara Bush made the front page of many global newspapers when, during a visit to "Grandma's House," a pediatric AIDS care center, she held a baby infected with the virus and posed for photographers to record what was then an act that was often misunderstood as making one susceptible to contracting it. She then went to hug an adult with AIDS as well. She took the President to the National Institute of Health to meet with male patients who had AIDS, and attended the funeral of the heroic teenager Ryan White who succumbed to AIDS after leading a long public education campaign on the issue. When there was an AIDS memorial vigil where gatherers held candles, she placed candles in all the White House windows and asked several family members of those who had died of the illness to bring to her in the White House parts of a national AIDS quilt that was then on display on the national mall. Although she told the press that because of the federal deficit, increased funding was an issue the President would have to decide, Time magazine credited Barbara Bush's concern for those with AIDS for influencing the President to propose increased research and treatment funding. She was further credited as being the inside advocate for the President's signing of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act and invited the first openly gay and lesbian citizens to the presidential signing ceremony. She wrote to the president of the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, "I firmly believe we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups… [it] always brings with it pain and perpetuates hate and intolerance."
The first First Lady to hire an African-American as her press secretary, Barbara Bush made numerous gestures to illustrate the long personal commitment that she and her husband held regarding civil rights of African Americans. Throughout her four years in the White House, she headlined numerous Martin Luther King Day programs in local grammar schools. She also gave particular attention to traditionally black colleges, having once served on the board of Morehouse College, a medical school largely attended by African-Americans. Washington Post reporter David Broder credited Barbara Bush with being behind the appointment of Louis Sullivan as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the only African-American member of the Bush Cabinet. Among those she listed as heroines were the liberal Democratic Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Dorothy Height, the civil rights leaders and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, and named Frederick Douglass as the historic figure who most inspired her. Among the thousands of graduation ceremonies she was invited to address in the spring of 1989, Barbara Bush chose a relatively obscure black woman's college, Bennett College. She encouraged a group of black Muslims to patrol an inner-city neighborhood plagued by drug crime. In an extensive interview with a leading African-American publication, Ebony, Barbara Bush bluntly addressed the realities of racial bigotry as she witnessed it from her unique perspective. She also emphasized that her influence as a "white-haired white lady" was limited within minority communities and that the primary role she could play was to speak out on prejudice.
In 1990, Barbara Bush was asked to speak at Wellesley College, sparking an unexpected reaction from the women students. Many didn’t want her to speak because they felt she defined herself solely through the person she married, rather than as an individual with her own life and interests. Barbara Bush understood their reaction, quipping "I was twenty myself." She nevertheless considered the invitation a serious opportunity to address what she believed was both an opportunity and conflict that was unique to women coming of age at that time, the desire to have both a family and a career. Bringing Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of Soviet President, with her, Barbara Bush’s speech was well received by the students; it was a gracious, serious but humorous look at diversity, a changing world and a woman’s role in that world. She said that perhaps some one in the audience might one day follow in her footsteps as an aide, supporter and helpmate to a President, ". . . and I wish him well!"
Within the first 100 days of the Bush Administration, the First Lady polled higher approval ratings than did the President or Vice President and a "fan club" even formed in San Francisco for her. Her clothing style generated interest with the creation of "Barbara Blue" by the Color Association of the U.S. and many commercial copies of her signature three-strand pearls. When her springer spaniel dog "Millie" gave birth to puppies, it made the cover of Life magazine and attracted overwhelming feature news coverage. In her slippers and housecoat, she walked her dog around the White House lawn, and in sneakers and jeans, she walked him at the presidential summer retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. The dog and puppies became closely associated with the First Lady. When she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, she publicly disclosed all details about her coping with the thyroid condition. At the first game played by the newly-created Texas Rangers baseball team that was partially owned by her son, George W., Barbara Bush became the first First Lady to throw out a ball to open the baseball season. She attributed her great popularity to her matronly figure and white hair because it was a benign identity and one which many middle-aged and older American women could relate. She was, she said, "Everybody's mother."
As a Vice President's wife, Barbara Bush was able to observe the often difficult relationship between her predecessor Nancy Reagan and the press with relative ease. She learned much about the importance of political figures to cultivate their public images by emphasizing some aspects of their real selves over other aspects that might make them appear less accessible or able to relate to the general population. Thus, she was cautious to avoid all political controversy and refrain from sharing her insight into the state of politics. Her son George W. called Barbara Bush a "genius with the media" and "better with the press" than the President. By teasing or joking with reporters, Barbara Bush was often able to avoid some of their questions that might lead into political controversy. She held monthly luncheons with various reporters who were supposed to keep the remarks off-the-record and her media coverage was generally complimentary. Few reporters covering the White House, however, believed that she was benignly removed from the best interests of her husband's Administration. Certainly, Barbara Bush was more comfortable making a public appearance to symbolize the personal support of herself and the President without having to address what sometimes seemed to critics to be a conflicting view in policy. Indeed she was known to be extremely defensive of the President. Reporter Daniel Weinraub described her as "blunt and opinionated… formidable and powerful." As President George W. Bush remarked about his mother's private demeanor, "Every mother has her own style. Mine was a little like an army drill sergeant's... my mother's always been a very outspoken person who vents very well - she'll just let rip if she's got something on her mind."
Republican Iowa Congressman Jim Leach believed that Barbara Bush was a "key element of the Administration." Many ascribed her policy influence as being a matter of raising general issues and concerns regarding different constituencies or considering pending legislation that the President had to sign or veto in frank discussions with him. If she spurred him to support some legislation, Barbara Bush was not known to have lobbied the President to initiate any specific legislation. While, like Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush adamantly refused to testify before Congress on behalf of her special project work, she did privately push the President to support the National Literacy Act, which permitted the use of libraries and other municipal property as evening literacy centers for adults. She was also part of an Oval Office briefing with the White House Counsel, the President and Vice President on the 25th Amendment, which regulated the definition of presidential illness and competence. She was credited with successfully urging the appointment of Jack Kemp as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Barbara Bush did not deny her potential influence on her husband or that they sometimes disagreed, but she insisted on keeping some details strictly a private matter between the two of them. She cultivated a wide network of various experts in different public policy-related work and would sometimes recommend that the President meet with them to deeply explore the particular issues. An avid campaigner, she was the Republican Party's most popular speaker on behalf of candidates running for national office.
On occasion, Barbara Bush let her real opinions known, such as calling for the Panama general Manuel Noriega to stand trial for his crimes against his people. She further offered the view that the President should negotiate with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein once he had released American prisoners held in bordering Kuwait. When she spoke out strongly in favor of gun control after a violent shootout in the capital and thus defied her husband's stance, there was a strong reaction from his base supporters in the National Rifle Association. Barbara Bush decided to halt any further comments on issues that might draw her into public debate. Thus, although she had stated her pro-choice views on abortion during the 1980 campaign, she refused to repeat her view. Only after she was out of the White House did she re-confirm this view in her memoirs.
During the Bush Administration, the fall of communism came to the Soviet Union and there were global repercussions, often prompting the Bushes to travel overseas and entertain many foreign heads of state. Humorously, when she met the spouse of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and he kissed her hand, Barbara Bush responded by kissing the hand of Denis Thatcher. A strong supporter of the Gulf War waged by her husband, Barbara Bush spent a Thanksgiving holiday with him among U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Her time in the White House was also marked by personal challenges. She believed that her son Neil became a target of investigators looking into the demise of the Silverado Savings and Loan during the Savings & Loan Crisis because he was the President's son. Her daughter Doro divorced at the beginning of the Administration and moved to be near her parents, in Washington; towards the end of their term, she remarried at Camp David, to Robert Koch, former aide to House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. In the closing days of the President's failed re-election campaign, Barbara Bush's mother-in-law Dorothy Bush died at her Florida home.
Although she took her husband's loss of the White House in 1992 as a personal blow, Barbara Bush immediately involved herself in a new life of public service activity, helping to plan her husband's presidential library and staying in close touch with her large family. Today, she continues her service as AmeriCares ambassador-at-large; Mayo Clinic Foundation board member; and supporter of organizations including the Leukemia Society of America, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Boys & Girls Club of America. Through her foundation for family literacy, she has sought to help establish and fund family literacy programs. She serves as honorary chair of the Foundation and hosts its annual fundraiser, "A Celebration of Reading," and regularly donates a portion of her proceeds to the foundation's causes. She maintains a public schedule designed to emphasize reading as a part of daily family life and visits literacy programs across the country -- in schools, housing projects, organizations and businesses.
Among her greatest points of pride have been the elections of her son George W. Bush as President of the United States in 2000 and 2004. One of the current President's twin daughters is named after her and the former First Lady is a frequent overnight guest of her son's at the White House. Barbara Bush also addressed both the 2000 and the 2004 Republican National Conventions that nominated her son and actively campaigned for him. As the only other woman besides Abigail Adams to be both the wife and mother of U.S. Presidents, Barbara Bush did not hesitate to defend the record of her son as chief executive. Sometimes her remarks generated controversy. On March 18, 2003, in response to a question about the deaths of American serviceman in the Iraqi War declared by President George W. Bush, Barbara Bush stated on ABC's Good Morning America, "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" Supporters said that she was dismissing speculation of deaths. In the spring of 2004, she joined the President in national appearances before senior citizen groups to promote his vision of Social Security reform. In 2000, Barbara Bush predicted that her successor Hillary Clinton would not be elected in her race for the U.S. Senate that year. She predicted to television interviewer Larry King in March of 2005 that Hillary Clinton, by then a current Senator, "will be the Democratic candidate for president in 2008," but would lose the national election.
Several schools have been named for her: Barbara Bush Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, Barbara Bush Middle School in Irving, Texas, Barbara Bush Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District, Barbara Bush Elementary School in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas, Barbara Bush Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona. The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center is also named for her, located in Portland, Maine. Barbara Bush serves on the boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic, and heads her Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She has authored four books. They include C. Fred's Story (1987) and Millie's Book (1990), stories about two of her beloved dogs, the profits from which benefited literacy, and her autobiographies, Barbara Bush: A Memoir (1994) and Reflections (2004). Barbara Bush lives with her husband in Houston, Texas, and at their estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Mrs. Bush made numerous overnight visits to the White House during her son’s presidency. With the former President, she was a guest there in the closing days of her son’s Administration, and from the White House proceeded with her husband to attend the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama, joining the Carters and Clintons. In the fall of 2008 and again in the spring of 2009, Mrs. Bush was hospitalized, undergoing surgery for an intestinal tear and aortic valve replacement, respectively. She joined other members of her family in also attending a World Series game in 2010 played by the Texas Rangers against the San Francisco Giants. Mrs. Bush has quite openly offered her opinions and addressed speculation about Republican presidential candidates during the 2008 election and the forthcoming one in 2012.
The former First Lady remains devoted to the Barbara Bush Family Literacy Foundation, which continues to grant awards to community literacy programs more than two decades after its founding. In a guest editorial in the December of 2009 issue of Newsweek Mrs. Bush praised the film Precious for its depiction of triumph experienced by an illiterate and abused young African-American woman. As she wrote, "After 30 years promoting literacy, I've never felt more energized. Watching this movie, I was reminded why it's important that we keep working so hard."