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Barbara Bush was Frequent Visitor to Tallahassee

April 18th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda


First Lady Barbara Bush was a frequent visitor to Florida’s Capitol City. She came to support her son before and after he was elected Governor, to campaign for him, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, was a major influence in Jeb Bush’s efforts to improve students  reading  skills.

In April 1992, more than six years before Jeb Bush was first elected Florida’s Governor, Barbara Bush came to Sealey Elementary School. Her purpose: Donate a penny in an effort to teach students about large numbers. 

“We decided to collect a million pennies” says then gifted students teacher Cheryl Cliett”

So they asked Barbara Bush to come.

“She not only put in the last penny, she put in one penny more to start us on our next million” recalls Special Needs Teacher Lea Reeves

But one of the first things the First Lady did was demonstrate she knew where the cameras were located, bringing a laugh from the crowd as she re-arranged where her student host was standing.

The First Lady had been invited by teachers Cheryl Cliett and Lea Reeves.


”What do you remember about Barbara Bush, something you didn’t know before you met her?” Wee asked.

“I think how kind she was and how much she loved children” responded Cliett.

“The whole program was just kids doing it and Barbara was just so natural with everybody” recalled Reeves.

The First Lady spent 45 minutes that day at the School, telling students and teachers “You have absolutely confirmed what I have always felt in my heart.  Little things do count. Not just coins. But little acts of kindness, little pieces of knowledge, and individual people.”

She would be back in the Capitol for her son’s first inauguration, his second, and sometimes just to visit.

And of those people who worked for Jeb Bush, not one doubts that his mother had a major influence in his push to improve reading scores in Florida.

And because Barbara Bush was Jeb’s mother, her impact on Flordia goes far beyond the times she visited.

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