TIME 10 Questions

10 Questions With Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush Former First Lady White House
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images Former first lady Barbara Bush attends a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program in Washington on July 15, 2013.

Turning 90, the former first lady reflects on her husband’s favorite pastime, the advantages of age and her second son’s jump into the 2016 race

Your husband jumped out of an airplane for his 90th. What’s your plan?

Not jumping out of an airplane. I am not an idiot. The whole family is coming, which will be fun.

Your husband was President. Your first son was President. Now Jeb, your second son, is running for President. What did you feed those boys?

Obviously too much.

You once said America has had enough Bushes. Then you thought anew. How come?

I am against discrimination of all kinds: race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever your last name is.

What does America need to know about Jeb’s wife Columba? What advice have you given her?

She is a tiny, shy woman with a huge heart. I try not to give my daughters-in-law advice, so they will come visit with my sons.

Are there any advantages to being 90?

Sometimes when someone asks me to do something I really don’t want to do, I can say, “I might not be alive.” It works.

The Clintons are getting a lot of grief about their foundation. Do former Presidents face too many potential conflicts to stay active in public affairs?

No. Former Presidents have a great bully pulpit. They must find a way to use it wisely and well to help others.

You spent a lot of time as First Lady–and more in the years since–on literacy. Has it improved in 20 years?

Not enough, which is why I am letting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy use my birthday to raise money. It’s sort of embarrassing. Our friends hide their wallets when they see us coming. But we are desperate to solve this problem. We have some exciting new ideas we want to try. I hope you’ll ask me about that down that road.

Let’s do it now.

I was hoping you would say that. We are partnering with XPRIZE to find the best minds around the globe to come up with innovative and technologically driven solutions to illiteracy. It’s a global competition challenging teams to develop mobile apps for adults to create the greatest increase in literacy skills in 12 months. We’re going to kick it off later this year. We think it will make a difference.

So, what have you read lately that you liked?

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

Your husband is tweeting. You aren’t. How come?

I promised my family I would keep my mouth shut.

Speaking of which, we have a question from him here. It goes like this: “‘Bar, I plan to jump on my 95th birthday. Do you have a problem with that?'”

Would it stop you if I did? But please land again in the churchyard. You know why I think that makes sense.

What’s the best political advice you have ever received?

Be yourself. Well, maybe someone a little nicer.

–MICHAEL DUFFY

FOR VIDEO OF OTHER INTERVIEWEES, GO TO time.com/10questions


This appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of TIME.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com