As an experienced journalist, I’ve had the privilege to meet and interview countless people in varied often difficult circumstances. Among my subjects: criminals, victims, politicians, actors, athletes and everyday people. However, as I’ve often told my MBA students at Wharton, my most memorable subject remains former First Lady Barbara Bush. The “country’s grandmother” has been described as “a fabulous First Lady, a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions”, “gracious, gregarious, fun, funny, loving, tough, smart, graceful woman who was the force of nature”, “the gold standard of a friend”, “greatest teacher and role model, “gracious, joyful, bipartisan, straightforward and classy.”
All accurate descriptions… I’ll add one more. A gifted communicator.
Why? She was real, authentic.
I had the pleasure of a sit down one-on-one interview with the First Lady while her husband was campaigning for re-election to the presidency in Pennsylvania. What made her so memorable so impressive to me as a reporter was there was absolutely no pretence, despite the fact she was The First Lady. There were no prepackaged messages, no talking points. She was relaxed, genuine, humorous, direct, strong but also warm and sincere. We simply had a conversation, the most effective of all communication. She didn’t anticipate a question, she listened intently, honestly embraced it and then thoughtfully answered.
So as we honor her life and legacy we should also remember a strong, feminine leader, who was secure in herself, unwavering in her convictions but also courageous enough to be genuine. As part of her many accomplishments, Mrs. Bush served as a refreshing example of a true, gifted communicator. A woman who, because of her unique gift could connect with people on all levels despite politics.
-Susanne LaFrankie, M.A.