A Night Of Celebration

Houston's newest power couple turn heads as Celebration of Reading raises $2.5 million

Houston's newest power couple turn heads at Celebration of Reading

News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, President George W. Bush; First Lady Barbara Bush; J.J. Watt
Former President George W. Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush and surprise guest J.J. Watt. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Max Bushman and Jackie Collins
Max Bushman and Jackie Collins. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, First Lady Barbara Bush and President George W. Bush
Barbara Bush and George W. Bush. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, David McCullough
David McCullough. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Jim Daniel and Margaret Alkek Williams; Annette and George Strake
Jim Daniel and Margaret Alkek Williams, left, with Annette and George Strake. Photo by David Shutts
Janice and Robert C. McNair
Janice and Bob McNair. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Dorothy and Mickey Ables
Dorothy and Mickey Ables. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, James W. Crownover and Molly Crownover
Jim and Molly Crownover. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Neil and Maria Bush; Jackie Collins; First Lady Barbara Bush; President George W. Bush; Doro Bush Koch; David McCullough
Neil and Maria Bush, from left, Jackie Collins, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush, Doro Bush Koch and David McCullough. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Olivia Somerlyn with The Houston Children's Choir
Olivia Somerlyn with The Houston Children's Choir. Photo by David Shutts
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, President George W. Bush; First Lady Barbara Bush; J.J. Watt
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Max Bushman and Jackie Collins
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, First Lady Barbara Bush and President George W. Bush
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, David McCullough
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Jim Daniel and Margaret Alkek Williams; Annette and George Strake
Janice and Robert C. McNair
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Dorothy and Mickey Ables
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, James W. Crownover and Molly Crownover
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Neil and Maria Bush; Jackie Collins; First Lady Barbara Bush; President George W. Bush; Doro Bush Koch; David McCullough
News, Tarra Gaines, Celebration of Reading, April 2015, Olivia Somerlyn with The Houston Children's Choir

Ready for the ultimate blind item gossip, Houston? Can you guess what married, silver-foxy dynamo was recently seen on the arm of a hunky younger man, who just happens to be one of the NFL’s most eligible bachelors?

In honor of the lady's up-coming very special birthday, the defensive charmer bestowed upon her a single red rose, whereupon they settled into a love seat, and she was serenaded by the angelic voices of a local children’s choir.

That’s right, Houston’s No. 1 literacy power couple, Barbara Bush and J.J. Watt were out and about again, revealing their love . . . of reading, for the whole world and especially the 2,200 guests at A Celebration of Reading to see. Watt and Barbara Bush have teamed up before to “sack illiteracy,” so it’s no surprise that he was her on-stage Hobby Center escort at this annual benefit for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

Her other date for the evening, former President George H.W. Bush, could hardly complain since only two years ago at the 2013 Celebration of Reading he was accompanied onstage by a troop of Houston Texans cheerleaders. Turnabout is fair play, and this night contained game changing plays as the event raised over $2.5 million to help combat what foundation chairs Neil and Maria Bush called an illiteracy “crisis” happening in this city.

Watt and George H.W. Bush weren’t Barbara’s only admirers wishing her a happy 90th birthday. Along with the sold-out crowd, it seemed like half the Bush clan was on hand to celebrate reading and the Bush matriarch’s life-time dedication to promoting literacy. Hosts Neil and Maria Bush were later joined on stage by Dora Bush Koch, the honorary chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and Bush grandchildren Pierce Bush, Lizzie Andrews, Lauren Bush Lauren and Ellie LeBlond.

There were in fact two President Bushes in the house with George W. Bush making a special appearance in the dual role of proud son and headlining author.

Those Bush family members not attending in person were part of a video tribute to the first lady of literacy, which also included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reba McEntire, Clint and Lisa Hartman Black, Tommy Tune and even astronaut Scott Kelly, raining down his birthday congratulations from the International Space Station.

Amid all the birthday wishes the Celebration program always returned to how much reading changes and even saves lives. This idea was re-enforced by the unusually eclectic lineup of guest authors.

Queen of the guilty pleasure best seller Jackie Collins couldn’t actually read from her latest adults-only novel, The Santangelos, since the Barbara Bush Elementary School Chorus was probably still backstage after earlier giving their vocal birthday present for their school’s namesake. Collins described how her own love of reading lead to her becoming a writer whose millions of fans are always clamoring for her next story.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner David McCullough read an excerpt from his new biography, The Wright Brothers, which highlighted the brothers’ special advantage they had in life coming from a home where books were always valued.

Finally, George W. Bush confessed one of the reasons he wrote 41: A Portrait of My Father was to “dispel the notion that I couldn’t read.” Putting self-deprecation aside for a moment, George W. Bush also explained, that though it wouldn’t be objective, he wanted his biography of George H. W. Bush to add to the growing analysis of his father’s presidential legacy.

This very special celebration closed with singer-songwriter Olivia Somerlyn’s rendition of Raise Me Up” and “America, The Beautiful” accompanied by The Houston Children’s Chorus.

On hand for the celebration were Dr. Julie Baker Finck, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation President, Liza McFaddenShahla and The Honorable Hushang Ansary, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Max Bushman, Sue and Greg Maxwell, Janice and Bob McNair, Kathy McGovern, Limor and Stuart Smith, Lee Tillman, Paul Weeditz, and Lori and Don Wallette.
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