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Barbara Bush ‘Couldn’t Care Less’ About 65th Birthday With PM-Bush Bjt

June 8, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Barbara Bush marked her 65th birthday today doing what she loves best: pushing literacy and reading aloud to children.

Seated amid about a dozen children on ABC-TV’s ″Good Morning America″ show, the white-haired first lady read the story ″Leo, the Late Bloomer,″ about a lion who was slow to learn to read and write, and was rewarded with a chorus of ″Happy Birthday, Mrs. Bush.″

″Oh, how’d you know?″ she asked. ″Who told you that secret? Thank you very, very much.″

President Bush telephoned birthday wishes to his wife today from Iowa, wrapping up a four-state political trip.

″I did talk to Barbara this morning. She seemed unexcited about her 65th birthday,″ he said. Later, the National Pork Producers’ Council gave Bush a a box of pork chops and several bags of pork rinds, a favorite snack.

″Maybe that’s what I’ll give to Barbara for her birthday present,″ he quipped.

Mrs. Bush said Thursday she ″couldn’t care less″ about the milestone.

Reading to children, Mrs. Bush said, is ″about the most important thing parents can do.″

She cited studies finding that children who were read to at home do better in school, and said she and her husband read regularly to their children when they were young.

″It was a chance for us to put an arm around a child and have a special time,″ she said. ″It does a lot for bonding with your children and it pays off later.″

Mrs. Bush, a longtime crusader for literacy, planned to read again later to second graders at a library in nearby District Heights, Md.

President Bush, in a political fund-raising speech in Chicago on Thursday, said he had just been on the phone with ″tomorrow’s birthday girl, the one who did so well at Wellesley″ College in her commencement speech there last week.

As she left an event honoring children who read hundreds of books to raise money for the March of Dimes, Mrs. Bush groaned when asked about her birthday.

″Ohhhhhh 3/8″ she said, as if hammered by a verbal blow. But she quickly added with a laugh: ″I couldn’t care less. No, I have no feelings about it.″

She is coming off perhaps the most celebrated event in her 15 months in the White House: last week’s televised commencement address at Wellesley with her Soviet counterpart, Raisa Gorbachev, at her side.

The first lady’s speech was made more dramatic by a student protest beforehand questioning whether George Bush’s homemaker wife was a suitable role model for the graduates of the elite, career-driven college.

But Mrs. Bush, with liberal doses of wit and candid advice about putting family ahead of job advancements, won cheers for her speech. Crowds in Wellesley gave a tumultuous welcome to both first ladies.

″I had a very good week, and I plan to have a great week next week, too,″ Mrs. Bush told reporters.

″I felt all of America had a great week last week,″ she said, reflecting on the recent superpower summit.

″I was really proud of the Wellesley girls and Boston,″ she said. ″I was really proud that we could show Raisa that kind of (welcome). The only problem was she wanted to thank each one personally.″

Mrs. Bush draped ribbons around the necks of local March of Dimes’ ″reading champions.″ The top reader was Nicholas Daly, 9, of Beltsville, Md., who read 435 books in a single month.

The drive raised more than $14,000 to warn women about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes during pregnancy.

Mrs. Bush, saluting the youngsters at a ceremony at The Washington Post, said, ″You’ve shown us once again that everyone, no matter how old or young, or how small their allowance, everyone has something very precious to share with others.

″Because you’ve been willing to share your precious ability to read, our babies will be born into a brighter world,″ she said.

President Bush, who turns 66 next Tuesday, was in Des Moines, Iowa, today bound for Omaha, Neb., before returning to the White House this evening for dinner with Mrs. Bush and visiting West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Mrs. Bush has two more commencement speeches to give: one at Kennebunk High School in Maine on Sunday and the other at Dunbar High School in Washington next week.

She was born June 8, 1925, in New York City.

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