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Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation:

24th Annual A Celebration of Reading



The 24th annual A Celebration of Reading was held at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, April 19, 2018. The uplifting evening, hosted by Neil and Maria Bush, chairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, raised over $2.4 million to benefit the local Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation as well as the national Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Nearly 1900 guests gathered at the Hobby Center to celebrate the power of reading and former First Lady Barbara Bush’s indelible legacy. Mrs. Bush championed the advancement of literacy for the better part of 30 years. This year’s lineup of bestselling authors included Clive Cussler, Jim Gaffigan, Governor John Kasich, Christina “CK” Kerley, and Candice Millard.

The tribute to Barbara Bush began with remarks from James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush, who said of the former First Lady, “She was a true heroine who has helped build a better world – one person at a time . . . and we love her for that.” Following Mr. Baker’s remarks, a lighthearted video of the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library mascots, Northtale and Owlbotron, at a boot camp hosted by the mascots of the Houston Astros, the Houston Rockets, and the Houston Texans, was presented. To the delight of everyone in attendance, Barbara Bush and Neil Bush appeared at the end cheekily suggesting they had played the roles of the mobile library mascots.

Following the video, Neil and Maria Bush; Foundation President, Dr. Julie Baker Finck; and Ashley Bush, granddaughter of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, spoke of their admiration for Mrs. Bush and her dedication to the cause of literacy. They also expressed their gratitude for the overwhelming outpouring of support, prayers, and messages following the former First Lady’s passing.

When it came time to make the author presentations, each was introduced by a member of the Bush family. From the stage, the authors shared entertaining and unique stories depicting their personal experiences and expounding on their award-winning works.

The Reverend Dr. Russell Levenson of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church followed the author presentations with his own poignant insights into Barbara Bush’s last days. Reverend Levenson ended with a prayer followed by a moment of silence.

After the moment of silence, Houston’s own Mary Sarah, a 2016 contestant on The Voice, performed Miley Cyrus’s The Climb. Joining Victoria White, Marquist Taylor, and the 35-member Houston Gospel Choir, she then led the audience in singing Amazing Grace, concluding the emotional tribute to Barbara Bush.

Dinner, catered by Jackson and Company, followed. Guests enjoyed the delicious meal while sharing stories and sentiments from the memorable evening.

Guests: Clive Cussler, Jim Gaffigan, Governor John Kasich, Christina “CK” Kerley,  Candice Millard, Neil and Maria Bush, Ron Finck and Julie Baker Finck, Jim Pierce, Clemmie Pierce, Janet Cussler, Annette Strake, Betty and John Hrncir, Rose Cullen, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Iris and Bill Griffiths, Cal and Hannah McNair, Lizzie Andrews, Alexander Andrews, Pace Andrews, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Sonya Reed and Enrique San Miguel, and Gail and Greg Garland.

Prior to the evening’s festivities, a private authors’ luncheon, hosted by Neil and Maria Bush, was held at the stately residence of Terri and John Havens to kick off the 2018 “A Celebration of Reading.” Surrounded by the expansive grounds, the nearly 40 guests enjoyed a refreshing lunch courtesy of Jackson and Company. Neil Bush expressed his heartfelt gratitude to attendees for their kind words about his mother as well as their continued generosity and support of the foundation over the past five years.

Guests: Clive Cussler, Jim Gaffigan, Governor John Kasich, Christina “CK” Kerley, Candice Millard, Neil and Maria Bush, Julie Baker Finck, Janet Cussler, Gail and Greg Garland, Sonya Reed and Enrique San Miguel, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Sarah Beth Bush, Clemmie Pierce, Ty and Lee Tillman, and Trish Morille.

About Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a charitable organization formed by Neil and Maria Bush to carry forth First Lady Barbara Bush’s legacy in the literacy cause and to focus deeply on breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in the Bush family’s hometown. Founded on Mrs. Bush’s belief, “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” the Barbara Bush Foundation’s mission is to improve lives through the power of literacy: the ability to read, write, speak clearly, and think critically.

For more information, please visit  or follow us on Facebook at, on Twitter @bushhoustonlit, and on Instagram.


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