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Wellesley Seniors Applaud Barbara Bush, Raisa Gorbachev

June 2, 1990

WELLESLEY, Mass. (AP) _ Even some students who had protested first lady Barbara Bush’s selection as Wellesley College’s commencement speaker praised her address, which ended with an ironic comment on first spousehood.

Mrs. Bush appeared with Raisa Gorbachev at Friday’s ceremony and later credited the Soviet first lady with the warm reception they received, calling her ″my secret weapon.″

Mrs. Bush stressed the importance of family life in her speech to the graduating women. But she received the loudest cheers when she closed saying, ″Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the President’s spouse. I wish him well 3/8″

One of the 575 seniors had painted on her mortar board ″Barbara Bush for President 1992.″ Another wore a picture of President and Mrs. Bush, with the first lady dressed in a suit and power tie, the president wearing a dress.

Last month, 150 of Wellesley’s 2,200 students signed a petition complaining that Mrs. Bush’s selection as speaker ran counter to the school’s philosophy that women should be honored for their own career achievements.

Mrs. Bush dropped out of college to marry George Bush as World War II raged a continent away, and has been known best as a supportive wife and mother.

In her speech, Mrs. Bush, who wore a black academic robe with a purple cowl, urged the graduates to pursue professional careers if they wish.

But she said: ″At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.″

″I thought it was lovely - and I was one who signed the petition,″ said Betsy Pollard, 21, a graduating senior from Pepper Pike, Ohio, as she sat with the other graduates after Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Gorbachev spoke.

″I was very moved by it. I thought she was great,″ Pollard said.

Not all the protesters were appeased, though.

″Barbara Bush made choices and I respect those choices, but I think she was asked to come here because she is the wife of the president,″ said Patricia Hawkins, 32, of Deer Park, N.Y.

Speaking second, Mrs. Gorbachev gave a serious, but upbeat, talk on the virtues of Soviet perestroika and the economic reforms undertaken by her husband, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Then, sounding some of the themes that Mrs. Bush hit, she spoke of ″the values that bring us together,″ including love of country and children.

″If people in the world today are more confident of a peaceful future, we have to give a good deal of credit for that to women,″ said Mrs. Gorbachev, a former university lecturer who has a Ph.D in philosophy.

Seniors arriving for the ceremony found letters on their chairs urging Mrs. Bush to be a stronger proponent of women’s issues.

The authors also distributed armbands of purple - the class color - to be worn by students sympathetic with the letter.

The letter said that ″in honoring Barbara Bush as our commencement speaker, we celebrate all the unknown women who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. The purple armbands you see today are in honor of these very women.″

When college President Nan Keohane cited that section in her remarks, loud applause erupted. Mrs. Gorbachev and Mrs. Bush smiled broadly and clasped hands.

Later, the first ladies toured downtown Boston, pausing for a stop at the Public Garden near Beacon Hill.

There, Mrs. Gorbachev told reporters, ″I belong to the people who believe that children and family are very important to women.″

Mrs. Gorbachev, who has a daughter, acknowleged that many women now feel otherwise.

″It’s one of the great controversies of our time,″ she said.

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