COLLEGE STATION, Texas – As Americans from the west coast to the east coast make their way to this town and drive up the road to the George H.W. Bush Library & Museum, one of the first signs they see is the name of the road that leads up to the building — affectionately named Barbara Bush Drive.
You could ask anyone passing through those museum doors who paid their respects to the former First Lady what they admired about her, and there are two traits specifically that stand out: her passion for education and her love for her family.
One of many educators who paid their respects to Mrs. Bush at the museum was former teacher Barbara Roach, who honored Barbara Bush in a special way.
“She was a treasure to her family and our nation,” said Roach, who taught for 37 years in San Antonio. “I’m very thankful and so in her honor I’m wearing blue and pearls and I usually dont wear the pearls.”
Adria Hogan, also a former teacher, traveled from Virginia and reflected on Mrs. Bush’s imprint on American education.
“She had a great interest in literacy, which is the foundation of knowledge, experience, and perspective,” Hogan said. “So, her interests were very important for all of us.”
Roach also said Mrs. Bush had an “emphasis on literacy and we need it all the time. I have nieces and nephews who think reading is not important. And it is.”
The former first lady certainly thought so. So much so that the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has provided more than $110 million to create or expand family literacy programs in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, according to the foundation. The foundation also did a study in 2014 that showed for preschoolers who completed one of their programs, there was a 70 percent decrease in the number of children at risk for developmental delays.
Barbara Bush talked about the importance of literacy herself during a 1990 commencement speech to Wellesley College , encouraging graduates to believe in something larger than their self, to get involved in some of the big ideas of our time.
“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.”
“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,” she said.
Terri Havens, who said Barbara Bush was a great friend, went with a group of friends to drop off a children’s book in front of the museum in honor of the former first lady.
“Oh my gosh, she changed the whole entire country and importance of literacy,” Havens said. “Every single child deserves to be able to read and she made that her mantra to make sure that that happened.”
An independent school district’s head start program in College Station was even named after the former first lady: the Barbara Bush Parent Center. It was established in 1997 to meet the needs of parents in the community, focusing on activities for parents of children birth to 3 years old and holding interactive sessions each month for families, according to the schools website.
“Everyone knows who Barbara Bush is, she made her imprint on society,” Kim Hodge, College Station Independent School District Early Head Start operations manager, said. “Being able to carry on her legacy here with her namesake on the front of our building is just a real pleasure for us. I just want her family to know that as long as Early Head Start has anything to do with it, literacy will be promoted out of this center.”
Ashlee Schoenvogel is a former elementary school teacher who took her daughter to the front of the George H.W. Bush Library & Museum to pay respects to Mrs. Bush with a bouquet of flowers. She also reflected on Mrs. Bush’s legacy in U.S. education.
“It just means to always look for the best for the kids and always put the children first,” Schoenvogel said. “And for the kids that aren’t fortunate enough, her funding helped all the children receive books. I was a former educator, so (I) understand the importance she had for oung children and she was definitely a family person, put her family first always-something I strive to do.”
With all that Barbara Bush stood for in education, she was all about family. She said this in front of a room packed with graduating college students at that 1990 commencement speech.
“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,” she said.
There’s a reason there’s a line of Bush leaders and for many, it starts with Barbara.
“Your success as a family…our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside our house.”
“She stood by her husband,” Roach said. “I’m sure it wasnt easy but they traveled all over the world and she left a great legacy with her family.”
“She was all about her family and that’s where all of American society starts, is in the home,” Hogan said.
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