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Remembering Barbara Bush: The 1990 Wellesley Coll ege Commencement Speech That Inspired a Generation

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Former First Lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday at the age of 92. Bush was well-known for her dedication to public service and passion for life.


Her son, former President George W. Bush, described her as a "fabulous First Lady."

"Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until then."

As the nation mourns, a video of Bush's 1990 Wellesley College commencement speech surfaced, in which the former First Lady shuts down hecklers who mocked her for her choice of being a wife and mother.

In response to protesters who said being First Lady is not a career, Bush electrified the audience with a powerful speech about empowering women and the influence the First Spouse has.

"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. And I wish him well."

She added:

"The first is to believe in something larger than yourself, 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. And early on I made another choice, which I hope you'll make as well. Whether you are talking about education, career, or service, you're talking about life -- and life really must have joy. It's supposed to be fun."

President Trump spoke of Bush, who he called a "titan of American life."

Former President Barack Obama tweeted a heartfelt goodbye to Bush shortly after her passing was announced.

"Barbara Bush was the rock of a family dedicated to public service, and our thoughts and prayers are with both Presidents Bush and the entire Bush family tonight. We'll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House, but we're even more grateful for the way she lived her life – as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling; as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit. She'll be remembered for passing those American values on to her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren — and to the countless citizens whom she and George inspired to become "points of light" in service to others."

Former President Bill Clinton offered words of kindness as well.

"Barbara Bush was a remarkable woman. She had grit & grace, brains & beauty. She was fierce & feisty in support of her family & friends, her country & her causes. She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. Hillary and I mourn her passing and bless her memory."

As the video went viral, Twitter was abuzz with tributes to Bush, who was one of the most influential First Ladies in recent memory.