Mr. Speaker, December of 1941 brought the United States into one of the deadliest wars in our history, but it also brought together the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. History. At a dance in Rye, New York, 16-year-old Barbara Pierce, a high school junior home on break from her school in South Carolina, caught the eye of 17-year-old George Herbert Walker Bush, a high school senior.
Love was in the air, and the two became engaged a year and a half later. While George was deployed in the Pacific during the latter stages of World War II, he penned letters to his ‘‘darling Bar’’ expressing the joy that she brought him.
The couple finally married on January 6, 1945, and for 73 years Barbara remained at George’s side. Barbara was an iconic woman and truly embodied what it meant to be a public servant in this country.
She stood beside the American people through decades of major political events, from the Cold War to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, providing a reliable, steady presence that never failed to induce calm into those around her.
She led our nation as First Lady with dignity, grace and more than a little bit of wit. She watched two of her sons follow in their father’s footsteps in bids for the U.S. Presidency and provided invaluable support to her son, George W. Bush, during his time in office.
As a wife and mother of presidents, she taught us all the value of our families. During her time as wife of the Vice-President and eventually First Lady, Barbara Bush became one of our country’s greatest advocates for education and literacy.
She started her own foundation, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, in 1989 and her influenced helped pass the National Literacy Act into law in 1991. As a result of her dedication to this cause, tens of millions of Americans have learned to read and write, and several million more were given another opportunity to graduate high school.
While she was not born in Texas, she eventually made the state home and forged a special bond with the place and its people. From supporting students across Texas and the Houston Metro area, to cheering on the Astros with her husband, her good will and magnetic personality left an indelible mark upon communities in Texas.
Mr. Speaker, Barbara Bush died as she lived, a strong Texas woman. She will be missed dearly by all Americans, especially those of us from Texas.
And that’s just the way it is.