Houston’s favorite comedy duo was out again in fine form, splitting sides and breaking hearts with their sexy bantering, and it was all for a very good cause — literacy. That’s right the outrageous comic pairing of Barbara Bush and J.J. Watt came together once more to deliver a short but hilarious set to open the 22nd Annual "Celebration of Reading."
The inspirational night at the Hobby Center, shared by more than 1,600 guests, garnered more than $2.1 million for the local literacy programs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.
But before the evening’s hosts, Maria and Neil Bush, could bring out a dream team of authors, one potentially Houston-shattering scandal had to be addressed: Is Barbara’s affection wandering? Is she cheating in literacy advocacy with another athletic superstar, namely Dwight Howard? A wounded J.J. had to know and confronted the former first lady with a public service video she had made with the Houston Rockets star. Of course, not even J.J. can defend himself from the twinkling, steely eyes of Barbara Bush when she assured him she was only bringing on another stellar player to her Connect4Literacy team.
George H. W. Bush, joining the reading power couple, on stage for a few moments seemed bemused by Barbara’s hunky, but jealous, admirers.
The"Celebration of Reading" was truly a night of both tears and great laugher with a resonating message that no matter who we are, whether we are the president of the United States, first lady, a powerful athlete, best-selling author or local volunteer bringing a book to a child, we each can make a difference. Early in the evening, Maria and Neil Bush introduced a new video giving voice to the many people across the city who are working together to combat our illiteracy crisis and who are following the foundation’s Houston’s Literacy Crisis: A Blueprint for Community Action.
Houston’s neuroscientist-in-chief, Dr. David Eagleman, was on hand to give guests probably the funniest how-the-brain-reads lecture ever. Then it was time to hear from an eclectic lineup of best-selling authors that everyone’s brains can’t wait to read including thriller, mystery writer, and friend of the Bushes, Brad Meltzer and memoirist Kelly Corrigan. First, Meltzer held the audience in suspense with hints about his latest book The President’s Shadow, for which he consulted George H. W. Bush when writing, then Corrigan had the audience in tears of laughter with her true life mother/daughter relationship tales.
Perhaps the defining moment of the night came when Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham took the stage to discuss his biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. As Bush himself gazed on from the audience, Meacham read from the beginning of the book chronicling the night 41 lost the 1992 election and yet resolved to keep striving for his life-defining values of “honor, duty, country.”
The final notes of the evening came from an 80-member gospel choir comprised of singers from various Houston-area churches and led by Ernest Walker. Singing together “Go Light Your World” and “This Little Light of Mine,” they brought home "A Celebration of Reading's" lasting theme that we can all be a star in the sky, and working together we become a thousand points of light.
Joining the Bushes in celebration were Cathy and Joe Cleary, Shahla and Hushang Ansary, Sidney and Don Faust, Sue and Lester Smith, Betty and John Hrncir, Margaret Alkek Williams, Jan Duncan, Alice and Keith Mosing, Jim Baird, Ginger Blanton, Melza and Ted Barr, Jennifer and Lance Gilliam, and Grace and Robert Givens.