Barbara Bush, 1925-2018


During George H.W. Bush’s term as President of the United States, I served as his Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. In that capacity, I had the privilege of being in the presence of the First Lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush, usually during visits by African heads of state when Mrs. Bush would host their spouses for coffee or tea.
Mrs. Bush was always very welcoming and gracious. She did not ignore anyone: she paid attention to the spouses of lower-ranking officials in the visiting first ladies’ entourages and made sure all visitors felt important in her presence. She would graciously inquire about their families and share information about hers. Mrs. Bush was a longtime campaigner for literacy in the U.S. and took a special interest in African literacy programs, discussing the subject with her African visitors at length.
Mrs. Bush was a strong supporter of President Bush’s policies in Africa, which were focused on economic development and conflict resolution. She encouraged me to continue my work on conflict resolution in Ethiopia and Angola, indicating she was quite aware of what I was doing in the State Department.
Like the first ladies before her, Mrs. Bush had a unique way of doing things. She and her husband constituted a powerful team, projecting American values and ideas worldwide. In Africa, where I spent most of my career, their influence was felt favorably across the continent. She was a great American lady and a role model for women and girls at home and abroad.