In 1988, Vice President Bush announced his candidacy for president to succeed the term-limited President Reagan. By this time, Barbara had experienced two presidential campaigns, but broke new ground by becoming the third candidate's spouse to speak at the national party convention that nominated her husband (after Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940 and Pat Nixon in 1972). She promised voters that she would be a traditional first lady and campaigned actively for her husband. The campaign at times focused on the large Bush family, and contrasted her with the incumbent first lady, Nancy Reagan, by highlighting her interest in domestic staples such as church, gardening, and time spent with family while placing less emphasis on style sense and fashion; she drew attention to both her famous white hair and disinterest in wearing designer clothes. She generally avoided discussion of political issues during the campaign, particularly those on which she and her husband differed, and those closely involved with the campaign have reported that she was actively involved in campaign strategy. Bush was elected in November 1988 and sworn in on January 20, 1989.
Family literacy was Barbara Bush's cause as first lady, and she called it "the most important issue we have". She became involved with many literacy organizations, served on literacy committees and chaired many reading organizations. Eventually, she helped develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She continued to be dedicated to eliminating the generational cycle of illiteracy in America by supporting programs where parents and their young children are able to learn together. During the early 1980s, after statistics had shown that foreign-born immigrants from Latin America had nearly quintupled just since 1960, statistics showed that 35 million adults could not read above the eighth-grade level and that 23 million were not able to read beyond a fourth-grade level. Mrs. Bush appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the situation and spoke regularly on Mrs. Bush's Story Time, a national radio program that stressed the importance of reading aloud to children. Her children Jeb Bush and Dorothy Bush Koch serve as co-chairs of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. During her lifetime Mrs. Bush remained active in the foundation and served as honorary chair.
She was struck every day by "how much things had changed" for her and her husband since they became president and first lady. In place of a limousine, Bush tried to use a smaller car and travel by train and commercial aircraft for out-of-town trips. The heads of Bush's Secret Service detail were partially opposed to her wishes; the agents agreed to the small car but did not approve of the commercial air and train travel. At that time, the number of threats to the first lady was higher than that of the vice president. Bush still wanted to use public transportation despite the opposition of the Secret Service. She was put-off by the fact that her flights would be delayed while agents checked out the planes and luggage. The plane on which Bush traveled was nicknamed "Bright Star", in honor of the leukemia foundation her husband and Hugh Liedtke founded after her daughter Robin died.
But her role as first lady, wife and mother actually sparked something of a backlash, when she was chosen to speak at Wellesley College commencement in 1990. Some students protested the choice, saying that a woman most famous for her husband's career wasn't the ideal role model.
A strong and compassionate first lady, a devoted matriarch and champion of literacy, she graced our deckplates on multiple occasions and treated all who served aboard USS George H. W. Bush like her own family," Navy Capt. Sean Bailey said.
President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan, depart the Inauguration ceremony of his successor, President George H.W. Bush, and new first lady Barbara Bush on the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1989. President Bush was sworn in as the nation's 41st president.
Former first ladies pose with first lady Barbara Bush on November 4, 1991. From left to right, seated: Lady Bird Johnson, widow of Lyndon Johnson; Pat Nixon, wife of Richard Nixon; Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter; and Betty Ford, wife of Gerald Ford. Standing with Mrs. Bush is Nancy Reagan, wife of Ronald Reagan.
President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush and former President George H.W. Bush sit surrounded by family in the Red Room of the White House January 6, 2005. Friends and family joined former President Bush and Barbara Bush in celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary at a dinner.
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with former first lady Barbara Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas on April 25, 2013.
As first lady, Barbara looked to continue her charitable work by starting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The goal of her foundation was to support organizations that teach reading skills to both parents and children. Barbara also wrote a book that raised roughly $1 million.
The White House Historical Association joins the nation in its remembrance of First Lady Barbara Bush and the warmth, care for others, love of country, and humor she brought to her roles as Second and First Lady of the United States. Mrs. Bush is remembered for her friendly and forthright manner while helping her husband George H.W. Bush campaign for office, once saying that people liked her because they know "I'm fair and I like children and I adore my husband." As wife of the vice president, she selected the promotion of literacy as her special cause. As first lady, she worked for a more literate America, calling it the "most important issue we have." She supported many different causes and people including the homeless, the elderly, HIV/AIDS patients, military families and school volunteers. 041b061a72