Remembering Barbara Bush in “the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”

On April 17, former First Lady Barbara Bush died at age 92. During her long and illustrious life, Mrs. Bush championed the cause of literacy — a passion that Bonnie Squires, board president of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, had the privilege of witnessing in action. Squires covered the former first lady during a stop at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where Mrs. Bush was reading to a group of children. Squires specifically recalls the touching moment when the first lady put one of the children on her lap while she read.

“In person, she was really beautiful, with bright blue eyes, silver hair and her signature multi-strand pearl necklace,” said Squires. “She was warm and friendly and posed for photos with anyone who asked her. She will be missed,” Squires added.

Steve Wenick, a frequent contributor to The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, also remembered Barbara Bush. He did so by flying the American flag at half-staff in her honor. What ensued from this gesture inspired Wenick to reflect on patriotism:

Today I sadly fly the American flag at half-staff in honor of the memory of Barbara Bush. With the exception of the most unhinged, hate-filled expressions by some members of our country, Mrs. Bush is held in high esteem.

As I was tending to some gardening needs in front of my home, a new neighbor of mine happened by. He paused, looked at the flag, looked at me with an unmistakable mien, and in a derisive tone, asked, ‘What are you, a real American?’

Not every question needs to be answered, so I gave no answer, because his utterance was not a question; it was a statement of how he feels about the country in which he lives. How sad it must be to view one’s country and countrymen with such contempt that one feels impelled to publicly proclaim disdain for a land, which is not perfect while it strives for perfection.

I responded with a faux courteous, ‘thank you for sharing’ smile and continued tending my chores, trying to make my small garden add to the majestic beauty of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’


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