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First lady Barbara Bush speaks at graduation ceremony, 1990

Posted on April 19, 2018 | in Uncategorized | by

First lady Barbara Bush caught her mortarboard as the wind almost took it away, May 4, 1990 during graduation ceremonies at Southeast Community College in Cumberland. The elements were against her almost all the way, but Bush made it to the University of Kentucky’s campus in southeast Harlan County. Braving high winds, crooked roads, a thunderstorm and then sweltering heat, Bush delivered a short, spirited commencement address to 131 graduates. More than 2,500 people came to see the president’s wife as the school celebrated its 25th anniversary. But because a driving rainstorm drove ceremonies inside, only a handful wound up hearing her. High winds that prompted tornado watches in parts of Kentucky grounded the first lady’s helicopter ride from a Wise, Va., airport to the Cumberland campus. Instead, Bush wound up spending about two hours in a small red Oldsmobile, crossing Big Black Mountain on a road that Southeast President W. Bruce Ayers said could only be described as treacherous. At first the ceremony started outside but at 6:45 p.m., a full-scale storm struck. Spectators scurried for cover and Bush, holding on to her mortarboard, left under Ayers’ umbrella. Size and security permitted only the graduates, faculty, Bush, U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers and reporters inside a multipurpose room called the Little Theater in the college’s Falkenstine Hall. The first thing Bush said was, “Open those doors.” Spectators came and stood in the doorways. Then Bush said, “I’m going to take my hat off. Why don’t you?” Wet hats were removed, and Bush also removed her black academic gown. Wearing a black-flecked white blouse and a red skirt, she then began a speech that extolled Southeast for its efforts to educate mountain residents. A White House staff member said Bush decided to speak at Southeast’s graduating after reading an invitation from Kathy Guyn, chairwoman of the school’s biological sciences department.From about 200 requests for graduation speeches, Bush selected four colleges and two high schools. Southeast was the only two-year college selected, Guyn said. Bush, wife of President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday. She was 92. Photo by Tim Sharp | staff

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