Tags: Presidential History | barbara bush | first lady | causes | literacy

Barbara Bush: The Causes That Defined President George H.W. Bush's First Lady

By    |   Wednesday, 05 Aug 2015 02:58 PM

The promotion of literacy was a special cause for Barbara Bush even before she arrived at the White House in 1989 as first lady to President George H.W. Bush.

While her husband was vice president in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1989, Barbara Bush was a visible advocate of greater literacy in America, and she continued her work on the issue as first lady from 1989 to 1993, including the establishment of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in the first year of her husband's presidency.

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"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," according to the National First Ladies Library.

Bush's interest in literacy first arose from her son Neil's dyslexia, History.com reported.

In a 1990 commencement speech at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she urged new graduates to "get involved in some of the big ideas of our time." She added: "I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society."

Bush found numerous ways to champion the cause. In 1991 she hosted "Mrs. Bush's Storytime," a nationally syndicated radio series in which the first lady read stories and talked about the importance of literacy and reading aloud to child development.

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Bush also donated more than $1 million to her foundation from the proceeds of "Millie's Book," a whimsical 1990 memoir of White House life which the first lady wrote from the perspective of the Bush family dog, as Bush explained in her (actual) 1994 autobiography, "Barbara Bush: A Memoir."

Bush also "stood proudly by her husband as he signed the 1991 National Literacy Act, the first piece of legislation ever enacted specifically for literacy," according to a history of first ladies prepared for one of Barbara Bush's successors, her daughter-in-law Laura Bush, which was later published as a book, "Laura Bush: The Report to the First Lady," in 2005.

Bush embraced other causes as first lady including homelessness, hunger, and care for AIDS victims, and in the latter realm attended the funeral of teenager Ryan White, "who succumbed to AIDS after leading a long public education campaign on the issue," the National First Ladies' Library noted.

But as the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2015, "For Barbara Bush, the cause was and is literacy. She began her foundation in 1989, and 25 years later, it is still working toward the same goal."

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The promotion of literacy was a special cause for Barbara Bush even before she arrived at the White House in 1989 as first lady to President George H.W. Bush.
barbara bush, first lady, causes, literacy
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2015-58-05
Wednesday, 05 Aug 2015 02:58 PM
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