Barbara has been most influential on issues that concern her deeply or where her husband is behind the curve, like AIDS, the homeless, civil rights and education. In the late 1950s, she battled segregationist innkeepers who refused to let the family’s black baby-sitter stay with them in the same hotel. She was instrumental in the appointment of the only black in Bush’s Cabinet, Dr. Louis Sullivan, whom she came to know from her work at [Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine].It was Barbara’s visits to AIDS hospitals in Harlem that nudged her husband into endorsing additional federal funds for fighting the disease when the Reagan Administration was still balking. Similarly, after an early debate when her husband brushed aside a question about the homeless with boiler plate about housing, Barbara exhorted him to make homelessness a campaign issue. “She really talked hard at him,” said an aide, “and rode him until he got it right.” Barbara’s interest in children and literacy, meanwhile, helped Bush commit himself to being the “education President.” “Every time he says ‘Head Start,’ that’s Bar,” says Sheila Tate, Bush’s transition spokeswoman.
April 18, 2018 at 9:10 AM EDT