As I look back on the legacy of the extraordinary Barbara Bush, I think of days gone by as a young staffer on the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign.
I grew up Italian-American in a well-run, 1,800-square-foot house in Cortland, New York — a school girl from humble beginnings who ran away from the small town to follow her passion in Washington, D.C.
At 23, I was part of the Reagan Revolution, serving as a minor-league aide in the correspondence office on the presidential campaign. The youngest on the campaign staff were often called to duty to help with flag-waving and advance for events.
Barbara Bush was never shy about sharing her opinion. White House staff often noted that famous Barbara Bush “stare.”
Few had the opportunity to have it directed at them — but I did.
One night, there was a grand event. I was among a handful of aides tapped to help hand out flags, place “reserved” signs on the seats and greet VIPs.
Being a small-town girl, I was star-struck by just about everyone — movie stars, Cabinet members, U.S. senators and members of Congress.
The vice president entered the room — stoic, tall, handsome and brave — with his lovely Barbara on his arm. The military band struck the chord for the national anthem I’d sung at my own high school graduation.
I was immediately swept into the occasion — I stepped to the right and began snapping photos of the vice president and second lady. Vice President George H.W. Bush stood there, hand over his heart, singing along. His bride also sang but was clearly a bit annoyed by the school girl who was furiously snapping photos.
I’d like to say it was a proud moment for me — but it wasn’t. I got the Barbara Bush “stare” right then and there. It was like the cold chill I felt when my Sicilian father gave me the same look.
Immediately, I put the camera down, stepped back, and — hand over my heart — sang at the top of my lungs.
I’ll never forget that moment and I’ve often reflected on the thought of my own parents being ashamed of me for acting more like paparazzi than patriot. I certainly grew up respecting the flag and I certainly knew better.
I’ve often thought about that moment: that glare – that stare. The flashback is even clearer in my mind 34 years later, reflecting on the enduring legacy of Barbara Bush sharing her values of duty, honor, patriotism, family and service.
In 2000, I chaired the Bush-Cheney campaign and hosted George P. Bush, the eldest of the Bush grandchildren, who holds statewide office as Texas land commissioner. “George P” was stumping for his uncle, George W. Bush, and I was responsible for planning a three-day swing through the California Bay Area.
I remember George P’s confidence, speaking fondly of the great affection he had for his grandmother. He talked about the values she instilled in him as the eldest Bush grandson and the responsibility that came with the legacy.
Later that year, President Bush 43 was elected, and in 2002, I was asked to join the Bush-Cheney administration. I became the first women to serve as the western states’ representative for Region IX of the Department of Labor, headed by Secretary of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, who now serves as secretary of transportation under President Donald Trump.
On the day of her passing, George P. said on Twitter that “the sorrow of her loss is softened by the knowledge of her impact on our family and our country.”
I’ll never forget her impact on this patriot, who became a little more mature and a lot more grateful for the lessons of Barbara Bush.
Judy Biviano Lloyd served as an appointee of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. She currently lives in California with her husband Tim, a health care technology entrepreneur, and son Michael, a sophomore at Texas Christian University.
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