College campuses have been hostile territory for Republicans for a long time. George H.W. Bush was slightly less popular than dandruff during his presidency. But that didn't stop Smith College from inviting the First Lady to speak at the opening convocation. It was a point of both pride and irritation for Smith College in the 80's that both Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush had attended. News reports would refer to them as "the 2 most powerful women in the country," prompting another alumnae, Gloria Steinem, to wonder if there was a reporter in Great Britain interviewing Dennis Thatcher's alma mater on the same subject. There was even a T Shirt with caricatures of the 2 First Ladies on the front, and "There must be a better way to get a Smithie in the White House" on the back. (I still have mine.) Students may have hated her politics, but at least they were polite during her visit. (And at least we didn't attend Convocation in our underwear back then.)
Maybe leftists had better manners back then. Or maybe Barbara Bush was a woman who was impossible to hate. I'll never forget meeting her that day. The secret service was having kittens as she walked through a crowd of 2,000 students down on the athletic fields. But Mrs. Bush walked calmly through, shaking hands and smiling. As we stood there, she looked up towards the campus and pointed to Tyler House and remarked "I used to live in that house right over there." It was a wonderful moment.
Apparently, Barbara Bush still has fond memories of her time at Smith and stays in touch with her former classmates. She even took time out this month to send an update to the Alumnae Quarterly. It read simply:
"I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago. I am very active in my foundation, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, as is George with his, Points of Light. All of our children are working and serving others in their own way, along with my 17 grandchildren. I am very proud of them. Last Fall, they were helping with the hurricane and cheering on the Houston Astros in the World Series."
This weekend, the Bush family released a statement that Mrs. Bush is in failing health and will not seek further medical treatment. Her passing will be the end of an era. Her generation and her legacy of service and family are both fading from American life, much to our detriment. It has at least been uplifting to read all the tributes from people across the political spectrum. How fitting that we can all remember her in her own words, as a woman still in love with her husband after 72 years of marriage, and proud of her children and grandchildren.