By E. J. Dionne

Nothing Self-Made About Me

February 11, 2013 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics 5 Comments A+ / A-
Nothing Self-Made About Me

WASHINGTON — I disagreed with former President George W. Bush on many things. But on one issue, I admired him greatly: He was wise enough to marry a teacher and a librarian. I’m unabashedly biased about this, since my late mom was also a teacher and a librarian.

I have been thinking a good deal about her because she would have turned 100 on Friday. She died in 1995, and my sister and I have spoken often about the extraordinary social changes she came to terms with and was part of.

In talking about history, we break the story up into discrete chunks: the Depression, World War II, the 1960s and the like. But lives aren’t broken up; we live them continuously. Thinking now as a parent myself, I cannot imagine how I would have dealt with children of my own had I been a father in the 1960s. How strange those years must have seemed to adults like my mom. How spoiled did my generation look to those who had lived through depression and war? It was not illogical to ask, as many did: “What are these kids complaining about?”

In retrospect, I have been struck by how sensible my mom was through the social chaos, even though those were especially jarring times in our household. My dad, her husband of 29 years, passed away suddenly in the totemic year of 1968. Yet his death almost certainly made my sister and me less likely to rebel, and my mom cut us a bit of slack. The three of us were determined not to let the cultural hurricanes of the 1960s pull us apart.

My mother — her name, from her Quebec forebears, was Lucienne — was the sort of faithful Catholic who believed history was destined to leave us in a good place. So she was not the sort to close herself off to what she could learn from what was going on around her.

She was totally dedicated to being a parent because she fought so hard to become one. She lost four kids in childbirth or shortly thereafter. It took courage for her to keep trying so she could bring my sister and me into this world. (We never had the problem of feeling unwanted.) Family values defined her.

Pages →  1 2

Nothing Self-Made About Me Reviewed by on . WASHINGTON -- I disagreed with former President George W. Bush on many things. But on one issue, I admired him greatly: He was wise enough to marry a teacher an WASHINGTON -- I disagreed with former President George W. Bush on many things. But on one issue, I admired him greatly: He was wise enough to marry a teacher an Rating:

More by E. J. Dionne

De blasio

De Blasio, Unbowed

NEW YORK — To say that Mayor Bill de Blasio is unbowed after some difficult moments in his first few months in office is not entirely true. The 6-foot-5 progressive bows regularly so he won’t overwhelm interlocutors who don’t meet NBA specs. But de Blasio offers no apologies for waging war on economic inequality, for


Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush’s Optimism School

NEW YORK — The Republican Party faces a long-term challenge in presidential elections because it is defining itself as a gloomy enclave, a collection of pessimists who fear what our country is becoming and where it is going. The party’s hope deficit helps explain why there’s a boomlet for Jeb Bush, a man who dares



A Program Conservatives Should Love

WASHINGTON — We are at a point where we will soon have vicious ideological debates over motherhood and apple pie. Don’t laugh. If we can agree on anything across our philosophical divides, surely we can support efforts to promote voluntary service by our fellow citizens and to strengthen our nation’s extraordinary network of civic and




  • Dominick Vila

    What surprises me about this issue is not so much that George W. Bush had the wisdom of marrying a woman who was, clearly, intellectually superior to him, but that she agreed to marry him! Laura Bush was a wonderful First Lady. Her poise, education, focus on education, and the way she handled the usual family crises were admirable. Too bad she was not able to educate her husband, and convey to him the moral values that were so evident in her. She deserved better.

    • charleo1

      Like me, George probably just got lucky with Laura. In my case, I attribute my good fortune to my wife’s innate compassion for lost curs, and other unfortunates. George, on the
      other hand, may have had some oxygen issues at birth. (My Theory)

  • sunmusing

    Maybe it was the sex?

  • latebloomingrandma

    Thank you E.J. for a lovely tribute to your Mom. My mother-in-law would also have been 100 this March. They don’t make “matriarchs” like they used to !

  • Sand_Cat

    What a nice article and tribute to education and reading! Why soil it by mentioning George W. Bush, the antithesis of everything eulogized in it?

scroll to top