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#TBT: Barbara Bush's own diplomatic triumph

Since her passing on Tuesday, a lot has been said of Barbara Bush, admiring her wit, love of family and her role as f...

Posted: Apr. 19, 2018 7:14 PM
Updated: Apr. 19, 2018 7:14 PM

Since her passing on Tuesday, a lot has been said of Barbara Bush, admiring her wit, love of family and her role as first lady. Her 1990 address to Wellesley College graduates checked all of those boxes, serving up some of her greatest hits. You can watch highlights in the Instagram video above.

While President George H.W. Bush gets the credit for his diplomatic efforts with the former Soviet Union, Barbara Bush's opponents heading into this speech were arguably just as difficult and terrifying: a student body full of smart young women. Bush was not Wellesley's first choice for commencement speaker -- students had voted for author Alice Walker -- and some of the graduates at Hillary Clinton's alma mater weren't thrilled about the honor given to someone who had dropped out of college.

We all make our choices. And, appropriately, making choices was one of the major themes of Bush's speech.

She began by breaking the ice, calling skeptical student speaker Christine Bicknell her "new best friend." Bush had received a letter from Bicknell and called her at her dorm before commencement, which Bicknell recalled decades later as "a lovely conversation."

Bush implored graduates to "believe in something larger" than themselves, to choose joy and to cherish the people in their lives. The message mirrored a line she quoted from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off": "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Bush delivered a speech aimed at respecting the choices that she and her audience had made. Then, as now, women are criticized for their choices to stay in or out of the home and to try to "have it all." Sometimes this criticism comes at the hand of other women, and Barbara Bush made a case for sisterhood and equality.

"For over 50 years, it was said that the winner of Wellesley's annual hoop race would be the first to get married. Now they say the winner will be the first to become a CEO. Both of those stereotypes show too little tolerance for those who want to know where the mermaids stand. So I want to offer you today a new legend: The winner of the hoop race will be the first to realize her dream ... not society's dreams ... her own personal dream. And who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. I wish him well!"

And the crowd went wild.

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