Presidential and literary stars lit up the Hobby Center for A Celebration of Reading, the annual benefit for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. With Barbara Bush opening the celebration and George H. W. approving from the front row and with Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush sending their congratulations and support via video, Foundation chairs Maria and Neil Bush made certain this 20th anniversary of the Celebration of Reading would be a night event-goers would never forget. Coming together to celebrate the act of reading, they raised $2.9 million to combat illiteracy.
This was also a special year because the Houston Literacy Foundation has recently unveiled the Houston’s Literacy Crisis: A Blueprint for Community Action, which they hope will be an inspiration for other cities.
Barbara Bush and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy have been inspiring people to take an active role in promoting literacy in the United States for 25 years, so it was appropriate that the four best-selling and award winning literary stars of the evening Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, Orphan Train novelist Christina Baker Kline, Eric Blehm, biographer of SEAL Team 6 fallen hero Adam Brown and acclaimed author John Grisham all talked of the sung and unsung heroes whose stories inspired them and now inspire their readers.
Each author was introduced by a Bush grandchild Ellie LeBlond, Gigi Koch, Pierce Bush and Lizzie Andrews, and music filled Sarofim Hall thanks to Texas-grown The Voice and American Idol singers Savannah Berry and Vincent Powell, respectively, both backed by the Cy-Fair Senior High School Varsity Mixed Choir.
Along with a great party, any 20th anniversary should also bring a few revealing moments and this poignant and often hilarious celebration did just that, making it a stellar night for the 2,700 in attendance.
The Prez raps '80s style
While still a sock fashionista, George H. W. Bush's newest hobby is rapping, Barbara divulged before showing a video, first seen on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, of George singing (with a little help of a video clip editor) that classic ode to the Hammer era “U Can’t Touch This.” This was perhaps the most exclusive treat of the evening because the video seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. (Perhaps into Barbara’s private collection?)
Barbara doesn’t share. . .until a book has been read
Grisham, who said he could have spent the whole night telling Bush family stories, disclosed that he has a list of people to whom he sends early autographed copies of his newest books. Barbara has been on the list for years, but after a plea from George that Barbara hid each novel from her husband until she had completed it, Grisham had to add George to the list and send out two copies to prevent marital squabbles.
The Secret Bush?
Giving the audience an unprecedented peek into the post-presidential bromance that blossomed between Bill Clinton and George H. W., Clinton revealed by video that the Bush boys all call him their brother from another mother, but Barbara calls him the black sheep of their family.
If the choice is go big or go home, George and Barbara go gargantuan
Early in the evening, Neil Bush revealed that two days earlier, the sold-out event had garnered $2.4 million for the Foundation, but apparently that wasn’t enough for the first lady of literacy. The couple pledged $500,000 to put the final total to $2.9 million.
Among those spreading out across the Hobby Center for the late-night supper that followed the author presentations were Doro Bush Koch, Terri and John Havens, Faye Authement, Janice and Bob McNair, Hannah and Cal McNair, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Alice and Keith Mosing, Charlene Carroll and Betty and John Hrncir.