Obama’s moving remembrance of the flawed but fierce Barbara Bush is a must-read.

On April 17, 2018, America lost its 41st first lady and the mother of its 43rd president.

Barbara Bush passed away at her Houston home at the age of 92. A well-known — but flawed — first lady, she used her platform to advocate for increased family literacy.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.


In a thoughtful display of bipartisanship and respect, Barack Obama, ever a champion of goodness toward all people, wrote a lovely, heartfelt statement in remembrance of Bush.

His tweet is a welcome display of reaching across the aisle, particularly when humans go through, well, human things.

At a time when Americans are more split politically than ever, when the current president can’t even seem to get the death date of a famous political figure correct, and when it seems that being as rude and ostracizing as possible is the way to be heard, Obama’s tweet is an important example of how to treat each other with grace.

It certainly is indicative of his beliefs about humanity, and his belief that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, can come together first. "Those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can," Obama said in 2013. "We come from different parties, but we are Americans first."

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

While Obama’s tweet — and general life outlook — is certainly a beautiful display of affection toward the Bush family and Americans as a whole, it’s important to recognize Bush’s life as a lesson. Though beloved for her championship of family literacy and her honesty about the difficulty of losing a child, she’s also a polarizing figure for valid reasons.

Photo by Pool/Getty Images.

After Anita Hill’s historic sexual harassment testimony against Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Bush reportedly denied Hill’s claims, questioned her integrity, and defended Thomas by referring to him as “a good man.” In the Maine gubernatorial race, she endorsed Paul LePage, who called people of color "the enemy right now."

Her response to Hurricane Katrina victims — that they “should be thankful” for Houston’s help — was widely viewed as condescending. “And so many of the people in the [Houston Astrodome] here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them,” Bush said in 2005, seeming to imply they would prefer to live in an arena-turned-homeless-shelter instead of their own homes.  

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

She was a flawed person, and we absolutely shouldn’t whitewash her mistakes.

But, as with many flawed politicians and political figures, she was also human, with hopes and dreams and pains and failures.

While we shouldn’t ignore her missteps, we can follow Obama’s example by learning from them.

We can support women in their careers and when they share their stories, we can advocate for immigrants and people of color, and we can listen to and help those who experience challenges, rather than disparaging them.  

By recognizing the contributions Bush made to society, as Obama did, we can support the good causes she championed, respect the complicated life she lived, and take the good from views that may be different from ours.

Most importantly, we can stand with our fellow Americans when they need it most.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less