Barbara Bush and the aspiration to goodness


My wife and I spent a healing hour watching the news last night. When was the last time anyone could say that?

The topic, of course, was the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush at age 92. As the tributes poured in, how nice it was to be reminded that her human greatness did not derive from her role as matriarch of a political dynasty. Instead it was her commitment to family and friends, her wisdom, humor, strength, kindness and optimism through decades of triumph and tragedy. It was how she embodied the conviction that honor and service are the noblest of things.

Fred Rogers said, and I think it’s true, that it’s hard to make goodness attractive. But that was certainly never a problem for him, and never for Mrs. Bush. And the recent and ongoing celebration of Fred's greatness, and the tributes to Barbara Bush are all the more affecting because of the bilious, vulgar, and spiritually corrosive nature of current times.

In my days as a high school hockey coach, I tried to impress upon my players the importance of sportsmanship, integrity, decency and kindness—not as abstract ideals, but as things essential to success, peace and true happiness in life. I have often thought of coaches today, teachers, and parents of young children, who face terrible headwinds as they try to instill those values.

Not that any of us are perfect. Far from it. Every day I fall short of the person I hope to be. But that’s not the point. The point is that we try our best to be good to one another. However often we fail, it is the aspiration toward our higher natures and better angels that I believe is the highest calling in life.

Barbara Bush reminded us of that in her life, and now in her death. For that I am grateful.

 

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