7 life lessons we learned from late first lady Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush, advocate for children's education, died at 92

Former first lady Barbara Bush at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Former first lady Barbara Bush at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – With the recent death of former first lady Barbara Bush, her legacy has been a topic of discussion across the nation, including during a commencement speech Thursday by her son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at the University of Central Florida.

Jeb Bush spoke of his mother, who died last month at the age of 92, in his speech given during a graduation ceremony at the university and remembered her for her life of service to those she loved and those she may never have gotten the chance to meet.

The legacy of the late first lady can't be dwindled down to a single word or phrase, but she did leave behind a plethora of lessons from which everyone could benefit.

Below is a list of seven important life lessons learned from Bush's life:

1. The most important things in life aren’t things
The former first lady is known for being the right hand woman to her husband and the source of strength for her children and many others. As both the wife of and a mother to U.S. presidents, Bush had plenty to be proud of, and pictures often captured her appearing to be just that. Bush was frequently seen holding her husband’s hand and could often be found surrounded by her family, even in the last moments of her life. She seemed to keep family, faith and friends at the top of her priority list no matter how many responsibilities she took on as a first lady and role model to children throughout the country.


2. Don't take life too seriously
It’s easy to get lost in your to-do list, but Bush seemed to believe that you could always find something to laugh at or be cheerful about, even amid all the chaos life can bring. The former first lady’s fun-loving attitude can be seen throughout pictures, including several that capture her at major sporting events throughout the years and others that show her smiling while playing with dogs. Her life story also details times she set aside to just enjoy life and keep things fun. In fact, Bush even met the man she would later call her husband at high school dance.

3. Lose yourself in the service of others
Aside from serving her family and friends, Bush served her country for decades. While her husband was in office, she invested time and effort in improving education for children and teaching them the importance of setting goals and working to achieve them. She seemed to shine brightest when making the appearances that she knew would make a difference in the lives of so many children, making it obvious that she took pride in putting others first.

4. Be true to yourself
The phrase, “whatever you are, be a good one” accurately describes the way Bush looked at life and encouraged others to, too. She was also known for saying exactly what she thought or felt, and was open to letting her walls down so others could see who she really was. She embraced her flaws and used her good humor to keep her honest.
Her response to a student who asked the former first lady why she always wore pearls serves as an example.

“I wear pearls because I love them, and because they hide the wrinkles on my neck,” she said, according to the Bangor Daily News.

5. Be a force for good
Bush was an advocate for being the change she wanted to see in the world. Her passion for education and led her to inspire many others to become leaders. Her actions and words made it obvious that she believed no good gesture was ever too small or would ever be a waste of time.
According to the BDN, Bush challenged others to do something that could make a difference each day.
“Do something every single day to make the world better,” she said.

6. With some hard work, anything is possible
The former first lady often encouraged children to chase their dreams, no matter how far out of reach they might seem. She emphasized that students shouldn’t expect anything to come easy, but that nothing was impossible if they set their mind and hearts on achieving their goals.
“If you work hard at everything you do; one of you may become the president, boy or girl,” Bush said.

7. Be spunky and stay sharp
Bush never lost her spunk and chose to be the most authentic, raw version of herself that she could be. Even toward the end of her life, Bush never seemed to miss a beat. To what does she credit her sharp thinking and spunk? Reading. Reading of all kinds. She encouraged others to keep a diary that they could look back on and learn from, and of course, she did it in the funniest way she knew how. 


“… Keep a diary. Let your mother and father know that nobody can read it, not them or anybody else, just you. I’ve kept a diary for years, and I love to look back and see what dumb things I thought or what good things I thought. It’s a very wonderful thing to do. So help someone and keep a diary,” Bush said, according to BGN.

Oh, and of course, her favorite line of all time will be the most remarkable of her legacy: “And don’t forget to read a book!”

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