A few days ago Barbara Bush passed away at the grand old age of 92. She was known more for her role as wife and mother to former US Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush than career woman. In public she was seen as the supportive spouse, the
The speech is one worth reading and her advice to the girls about making three very special choices in life paramount:
1. ‘Believe in something larger than yourself. Get involved in some of the big ideas of our time.
2. Whatever your choices make sure they contain joy because you are talking about life and life really must have joy. It’s supposed to be fun. Find joy in life.
3. Cherish your human connections, your relationships with family and friends. As important as your obligations as a doctor, a lawyer, a business leader will be, you are a human being first and those human connections with spouses, with children, with friends are the most important investment you will ever make’.
When Barbara Bush was selected to deliver the commencement address at the all-women Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1990, the announcement was greeted with howls of protest from students.
In echoes of university campuses of today, Wellesley students organised a petition to argue that a career woman would’ve been a more appropriate choice.
The New York Times reported at the time that students felt Mrs Bush, who dropped out of college after two years to marry and become a supportive wife and mother, did not represent the type of career woman the college seeks to educate.
“Wellesley teaches that we will be rewarded on the basis of our own merit, not on that of a spouse,’’ read the petition. “To honour Barbara Bush as a commencement speaker is to honour a woman who has gained recognition through the achievements of her husband, which contravenes what we have been taught over the last four years at Wellesley.’’
Mrs Bush, who died today at the age of 92, ignored their demands and she went on to deliver her speech accompanied by Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of then Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1999 her address — on June 1, 1990 — was ranked No. 47 on a list of the top speeches of the century by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Texas A&M University.
Here is the text of her speech:
I’m really thrilled to be here today, and very excited, as I know all of you must be, that Mrs Gorbachev could join us.
These are exciting times. They’re exciting in Washington. And I had really looked forward to coming to Wellesley. I thought it was going to be fun. I never dreamt it would be this much fun. So, thank you for that.
More than 10 years ago, when I was invited here to talk about our experiences in the People’s Republic of China, I was struck by both the natural beauty of your campus and the spirit of this place. Wellesley, you see, is not just a place, but an idea — an experiment in excellence in which diversity is not just tolerated, but is embraced. The essence of this spirit was captured in a moving speech about tolerance given last year by a student body president of one of your sister colleges.
She related the story by Robert Fulghum about a young pastor finding himself in charge of some very energetic children, hits upon a game called ‘Giants, Wizards and Dwarfs.’ ‘You have to decide now,’ the pastor instructed the children, ‘which you are — a giant, a wizard or a dwarf?’ At that, a small girl tugging at his pants leg, asks, ‘But where do the mermaids stand?’ And the pastor tells her there are no mermaids. And she says, ‘Oh yes there are. I am a mermaid.’ Now, this little girl knew what she was, and she was not about to give up on either her identity or the game. She intended to take her place wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things. Where do the mermaids stand — all of those who are different, those who do not fit the boxes and the pigeonholes? ‘Answer that question,’ wrote Fulghum, ‘and you can build a school, a nation, or a whole world.’ As that very wise young woman said, ‘Diversity, like anything worth having, requires effort.’ Effort to learn about and respect difference, to be compassionate with one another, to cherish our own identity, and to accept unconditionally the same in others.
Clare Sultmann is a wife, mother of 3 and the founder of Dear Molly.
As a survivor of a catastrophic accident, former barrister at law, published author, and nationally accredited mediator Clare has returned to work in a different capacity. Relocating to Noosa shortly after the birth of her first child, Clare found it difficult to make meaningful and real connections with other like-minded women away from her own network of friends. With this in mind, Clare’s idea was born. Dear Molly aims to provide connections for like-minded women in a real, meaningful and positive manner. It a platform to share, communicate and inspire other women about their ‘real’ life.