New York Times op-ed: For Mrs. Bush, by James McBride (NYU):
Mommy’s children were black. Mrs. Bush’s were not. Neither cared about that. They were, ultimately, mothers.
I’ve thought a lot about that since Mrs. Bush died. About that common ground. And about where we all live now.
I do not know enough about American politics to venture informed opinions about power, other than I wake up every day since the last presidential election feeling as if I’m living a nightmare. But Mrs. Bush was beyond politics. She represented a far greater power. She represented the power and grace of a mother’s love.
Mother love is an unwieldy, cumbersome thing, hard to differentiate and quantify, yet powerful as the curve of an egg. It goes deeper than any political party. It is rooted in the idea of family and the underlying belief that here in America we can do better, ought to do better, should know more, strive for more, and most of all, love more. Mrs. Bush defined that feeling. She was, in a way, the great American woman we would all like to be.
She was outspoken and honest. She said things that needed to be said, and occasionally things that ought not be. She carried the load, nursed the babies, drove the cars, prepared the food. She taught the children to walk, and when the children became adults, stood them up when they could no longer stand. Like any mother, she would take a bullet for those she loved — her husband, her children, her grandchildren. And like too many mothers, she suffered the immeasurable grief of losing a child when her 3-year-old daughter, Robin, died of leukemia. She and her husband, George Bush, were at Robin’s beside when the child passed peacefully. “I never felt the presence of God more strongly than at that moment,” she wrote in her memoir. ...
[W]hat a family she raised. In the tight-knuckled, bare-fisted world of Washington politics, the Bushes proved over the years that they could hit as hard as anyone. Some did not like it. Still, you will not find a more loyal family. Republican, Democratic, black, white, Latino, North, South, Dixie, New England — you won’t have to look far down the Bush family line to find some of this, or that, or the other. They’re a real American family, flawed as all families are, shaped by a matriarch who understood, even as a young woman, that in all the ways of life, the importance of a mother’s love is paramount. It is the last line of reason and discourse in a planet gone seemingly mad. It is our last breath and greatest hope. Motherhood defines a society.
Barbara Pierce Bush defined every single bit of it. In the last years of her life, she dragged her octogenarian body onto planes and buses and into cars from one end of the country to the other, raising money for her literacy foundation. She despised ignorance. She despised it because she knew it was wrong.
And if you loved her and what she represented, you’ll go out and get a book. And you will read it. You will turn off that TV and pay attention. And cut the tweeting. And cut the Facebook chatter and all the other nonsense. And you will get busy doing what Barbara Bush spent a majority of her life doing. You will fight ignorance. You will learn to love. And in doing so, you will do what she did.
You will change the world.