"BELIEVE IN SOMETHING LARGER THAN
YOURSELF" - BARBARA BUSH 1990
Wellesley Commencement Address
It follows the full text
transcript of Barbara Bush's Wellesley Commencement Address,
delivered at Wellesley, MA - June 1, 1990.
Trustees, Faculty, Parents, Julia Porter, and
certainly my new best friend, Christine
Bicknell, and, of course, the Class of 1990:
I am really
thrilled to be here today, and very excited, as
I know you all must be, that Mrs. Gorbachev
could join us.
These are exciting times. They are exciting in
Washington, and I have really looked forward to
coming to Wellesley. I thought it was going to
be fun, I never dreamed it would be this much
More than ten years ago when I was invited here
to talk about our experiences in the People's
Republic of China, I was struck by both the
natural beauty of your campus and the spirit of
Wellesley, you see, is not just a place, but an
idea, an experiment in excellence in which
diversity is not just tolerated, but is
The essence of this spirit was captured in a
moving speech about tolerance given last year by
a student body president of one of your sister
colleges. She related the story by Robert
Fulghum about a young pastor, finding himself in
charge of some very energetic children, hits
upon a game called "Giants, Wizards, and
Dwarfs." "You have to decide now," the pastor
instructed the children, "which you are, a
giant, a wizard or a dwarf?"
At that, a small
girl tugging at his pants leg, asked, "But where
do the mermaids stand?"
The pastor tells
her there are no mermaids. "Oh yes there are,"
she said. "I am a mermaid."
Now this little girl knew what she was and she
was not about to give up on either her identity
or the game. She intended to take her place
wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things.
Where do mermaids
fit into the scheme of things? Where do mermaids
stand, all of those who are different, those who
do not fit the boxes and the pigeonholes?
"Answer that question," wrote Fulghum, "and you
can build a school, a nation, or a whole world."
As that very wise young woman said. "Diversity,
like anything worth having, requires effort."
Effort to learn about and respect difference, to
be compassionate with one another, to cherish
our own identity, and to accept unconditionally
the same in others.
You should all be very proud that this is the
Wellesley spirit. Now I know your first choice
for today was Alice Walker, guess how I know,
known for The Color Purple. Instead you got me,
known for the color of my hair.
book has a special resonance here. At Wellesley,
each class is known by a special color and for
four years the Class of 1990 has worn the color
purple. Today you meet on Severance Green to say
goodbye to all of that, to begin a new and very
personal journey, a search for your own true
In the world that awaits you beyond the shores
of Lake Waban, no one can say what your true
colors will be. But this I do know: You have a
first-class education from a first-class school.
And so you need not, probably cannot, live a
"paint-by-numbers" life. Decisions are not
irrevocable. Choices do come back. And as you
set off from Wellesley, I hope that many of you
will consider making three very special choices.
The first is to believe in something larger than
yourself, to get involved in some of the big
ideas of our time. I chose literacy because I
honestly believe that if more people could read,
write and comprehend, we would be that much
closer to solving so many of the problems that
plague our nation and our society.
Early on I made another choice which I hope you
will make as well. Whether you are talking about
education, career or service, you are talking
about life, and life really must have joy. It's
supposed to be fun!
One of the reasons I made the most important
decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is
because he made me laugh. It's true, sometimes
we've laughed through our tears, but that shared
laughter has been one of our strongest bonds.
Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller
said on his day off, "Life moves pretty fast. Ya
don't stop and look around once in a while, ya
gonna miss it!"
I am not going to
tell George you clapped more for Ferris than you
did for George.
The third choice that must not be missed is to
cherish your human connections, your
relationships with family and friends. For
several years, you've had impressed upon you the
importance to your career of dedication and hard
work, and, of course, that's true. But as
important as your obligations as a doctor,
lawyer or business leader will be, you are a
human being first and those human connections,
with spouses, with children, with friends, are
the most important investments you will ever
At the end of your life, you will never regret
not having passed one more test, not winning one
more verdict or not closing one more deal. You
will regret time not spent with a husband, a
child, a friend or a parent.
We are in a transitional period right now,
fascinating and exhilarating times, learning to
adjust to the changes and the choices we, men
and women, are facing. As an example, I remember
what a friend said, on hearing her husband
complain to his buddies that he had to babysit.
Quickly setting him straight, my friend told her
husband that when it's your own kids, it's not
Maybe we should adjust faster, maybe we should
adjust slower. But whatever the era, whatever
the times, one thing will never change: Fathers
and mothers, if you have children, they must
You must read to your children, hug your
children, and you must love your children. Your
success as a family, our success as a society
depends not on what happens in the White House,
but on what happens inside your house.
For over 50 years, it was said that the winner
of Wellesley's annual hoop race would be the
first to get married. Now they say the winner
will be the first to become a C.E.O. Both of
those stereotypes show too little tolerance for
those who want to know where the mermaids stand.
So I want to offer you today a new legend: The
winner of the hoop race will be the first to
realize her dream, not society's dreams, her own
personal dream. And who knows? Somewhere out in
this audience may even be someone who will one
day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the
White House as the President's spouse.
I wish him well!
Well, the controversy ends here. But our
conversation is only beginning. And a worthwhile
conversation it has been. So as you leave
Wellesley today, take with you deep thanks for
the courtesy and the honor you have shared with
Mrs. Gorbachev and with me.
Thank you. God
bless you. And may your future be worthy of your