Wellesley College seniors chanted "Barbara, Barbara, Barbara!" and gave Barbara Bush a standing ovation today as the campus became smitten with the First Lady.
Putting aside complaints that Mrs. Bush was not representative of modern career women, the seniors began cheering as soon as they glimpsed Raisa Gorbachev and Mrs. Bush standing together in portico windows before their commencement addresses.
Mrs. Bush sounded the same themes she usually discusses at commencements, but acknowledged with a joke the controversy over her appearance.
"I know your first choice for today was Alice Walker, known for 'The Color Purple,' " she said. "Instead you got me, known for the color of my hair," said the woman George Bush affectionately calls the Silver Fox.
Mrs. Gorbachev, dressed in a gray suit rather than the traditional gown worn by commencement speakers, told the 575 graduates that women "have our special mission."
"Always, even in the most cruel and troubled times, women have had the mission of peacemaking, humanism, mercy and kindness," she said. "And if people in the world today are more confident of a peaceful future we have to give a great deal of credit for that to women."
The lone note of discord came during the playing of the Soviet national anthem when a handful of protesters held up a banner that read, "Free the Baltics."
Mrs. Bush urged the women to "cherish your human connections, your relationships with friends and family."
"You will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent," she said.
Closing with a device she has used before, Mrs. Bush said, "Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. I wish him well!"
"The controversy ends here, but our conversation is only beginning," she said.
About 150 students signed a petition in April questioning whether the President's homemaker wife was a suitable model of female accomplishment.
Mrs. Bush, a college dropout, tendered her invitation to Raisa Gorbachev--a philosophy Ph.D. and former university lecturer--before the Wellesley students mounted their protest.
Mrs. Bush, who turns 65 on June 12, dropped out of Smith College in 1944 in her sophomore year to marry her teen-age sweetheart, George Bush, then a torpedo-bomber pilot for the Navy.
Before returning to Washington in midafternoon, the first ladies were to take a driving tour of downtown Boston.