Barbara Bush’s Subversive Secret to Happiness

Former First Lady Barbara Bush photographed on August 23, 2001 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Pam Francis/Getty Images)

“Whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children—they must come first.” Barbara Bush, Wellesley College, 1990

Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard: “These seemingly anodyne, Hallmark-y words, when taken seriously, are the most subversive words that could be uttered, then or now, on a college campus—a place where subversive words are supposed to be prized and protected but often aren’t. Mrs. Bush’s subversion wasn’t a matter of left or right, or even of feminism or traditionalism. She cut much deeper, into an American faith that transcends political categories.

“This is the faith of careerism. For generations, career had been the guiding light of the bourgeois American male. Work came before family, even if work was done in service of family, as many men told themselves it was. The result was that fathers and mothers of the broad middle class lived separate lives: men at work, women at home to attend to

domestic matters, kids above all.

“Mrs. Bush understood that this division of labor, enforced through countless social customs and economic arrangements, was manifestly unfair to women who wanted something different, and no decent person could object to dismantling the barriers that stood in the way of their ambitions. But in this otherwise admirable goal, Mrs. Bush suggested, the advocates of women’s equality overshot. They went beyond making materialism an option to making it an expectation, perhaps even mandatory. They fell for the great lie at the heart of American business and professional life as men had lived it: that a single-minded pursuit of professional success was the surest source of personal fulfillment.”

Read his complete column HERE.

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