Former First Lady Charms Audience At President's Forum

  • News Photo 243
    Former First Lady Barbara Bush spoke on "Faith, Family and Friends - My Life After the White House" at the President's Forum March 11 at Baylor.
  • News Photo 238
    Former First Lady Barbara Bush spoke on "Faith, Family and Friends - My Life After the White House" at the President's Forum March 11 at Baylor.
  • News Photo 234
    Former First Lady Barbara Bush spoke on "Faith, Family and Friends - My Life After the White House" at the President's Forum March 11 at Baylor.
  • News Photo 247
    Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. awarded former First Lady Barbara Bush with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree March 11 at the President's Forum.
March 12, 2002

by Haley L. Wright

Former First Lady Barbara Bush cheered a Ferrell Center audience of more than 6,000 Monday, March 11, with 45 minutes of humorous stories from her life as the wife and now mother of a United States President.

Mrs. Bush visited Baylor University as the guest lecturer in the President's Forum Lecture Series. During the event, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. also awarded the former First Lady an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, the second member of the Bush family to receive the designation from Baylor. In May 1998, President George W. Bush, at the time Governor of Texas, was presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree, and Laura Bush, then Texas' First Lady, was presented with the Alumna Honoris Causa award for her work in literacy.

"I'll be sure to tell George W. that you saved the best for last," she quipped.

Mrs. Bush was recognized for her national work in volunteerism, particularly her commitment to family literacy through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, as well as a rigorous appearance schedule to emphasize reading as a part of daily family life. The foundation has distributed $10 million to 305 programs in 44 states across the nation, giving $2 million to 70 programs in 46 different Texas communities.

In a lecture focusing on "Faith, Family and Friends -- My Life After the White House," Mrs. Bush began her President's Forum lecture by complimenting Baylor on its goal to educate the whole person.

"When I think of your rich tradition of focusing not only on a quality education but also on values and community service, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King. He said, 'Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.'"

Speaking on the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Mrs. Bush commented on the confidence that she and her husband, who served as the nation's 41st president, have in their son as a world leader and in his team. As a mother, the former First Lady shared that she would not wish for her son to deal with such troubled times. However, as an American, Mrs. Bush said she could not be happier to have "this decent, honest, wise man in the White House." She told the audience that President Bush, the country's 43rd president, depends on his faith to sustain him and that she is proud of the values that he stands for and in which he believes so strongly.

With her trademark good humor, Mrs. Bush often told stories that kept audience members in constant laughter. At one time, she advised grandparents to remember a few things if all their grandchildren come for a visit.

"Don't ever lend your car to someone that you gave birth to or that they gave birth to. Be very careful of criticizing their clothes. What they change into could be tighter and shorter than what you made them take off. If you remain calm, it's obvious that you don't what is going on," she said. "And you can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk, and that would be funny if I was talking about the grandchildren," recalling for the audience her husband's well-publicized dislike for the vegetable.

In addition to the laughter, Mrs. Bush also reminded the audience of her primary cause in life - family literacy, which she called the solution to many of the social problems in society today.

"If we can read and write, we can learn, if we can learn, we can get a job and support ourselves and our families. We'll be less tempted to turn to drugs and alcohol, child abuse, drop out of school, get pregnant before we are ready, and on and on. We will have pride and dignity and be able to enjoy the best things in life, including a good book or a bedtime story with our children and grandchildren."

Mrs. Bush also mentioned her love of community service and commended the Baylor community for donating more than 175,000 hours to Waco and surrounding communities last year. Taking time to acknowledge Steppin' Out, Baylor's longtime mass community service project, she challenged the students to never lose the spirit of giving.

She quoted Winston Churchill saying, "You can make a living by what you earn, you make a life by what you give."

As she closed, Mrs. Bush encouraged the audience to never give up on life.

"Don't ever give up on yourself, or your dreams, or your goals, or your family, friends and country. As you already know, there will be good days and bad, when things may not go your way. Always remember when one door closes, another door opens."

Her final advice to the audience was to cling to perseverance, noting, "The longer you persevere, the richer your blessings become."

Mrs. Bush also answered questions submitted in writing by audience members as they arrived at the Ferrell Center. President Sloan moderated the session, which was punctuated by some good-natured give-and-take between the two leaders.

The President's Forum Lecture Series brings to the Baylor campus national and world leaders to promote dialogue about important issues facing our society. Past lecturers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes and The McLaughlin Group.

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