The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s annual Celebration of Reading was held this month at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel with a program featuring four national best-selling authors.
Former journalist turned bestselling author Daniel Silva opened the Sept. 8 program, and thanked former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who were both in attendance, for their extensive philanthropy.
“To be reminded of what President Bush and his wife Barbara have done since leaving office, in preparation for being here tonight, we did a little research to determine how much this remarkable family has raised for charity since leaving the White House,” Silva said. “We came up with a ‘cocktail napkin’ figure, but we’re going to go with it. President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush between them have raised over $1 billion since leaving the White House.”
Silva, best known for his popular series about the legendary spy and art restorer, Gabriel Allon read a chapter from his latest book “House of Spies” as part of the program.
The annual Maine Celebration of Reading benefits the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy. Funds raised from the Celebration of Reading support nationwide family literacy programs of the Barbara Bush Foundation, including programs in Maine.
Over the past 21 years, the Foundation has provided nearly $6.2 million in support of more than 370 family literacy programs throughout the state of Maine. Currently, the Foundation supports 20 programs statewide.
Teri Hatcher, best known for her television roles as Susan Mayer on the ABC comedy-drama series “Desperate Housewives” and Lois Lane of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” is also a bestselling author with her book “Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life” penned in 2006.
Hatcher read from the chapter in her book that describes the title “Burnt Toast” as a metaphor for the self-sacrifice that women, especially mothers, adopt. Hatcher tells her story of life lessons and foibles in the book with the hope that her insights might inspire and motivate other women.
Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lives in Maine, wrote his bestselling memoir “Tough as They Come” after losing both arms and both legs in an IED explosion while on his third tour of active duty in Afghanistan.
Mills used his quick wit to charm everyone at the sold-out event, including the former president, a veteran of WWII, who was clearly entertained by Mills’ military tales and jokes.
Mills takes his mission of advocacy for veterans and amputees seriously. His book is an important part of his message.
“Through reading and being able to write this book, I’ve been able to change a lot of lives and give back to my community,” Mills said.
Mills credits the support of his family with empowering his recovery. He turned his positive attitude toward other wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Military Hospital and founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans.
Mills lives by his motto, “Never give up. Never quit,” and he said reading gives people the power to do that.
“It’s the ability to tell stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, or to get through challenges in life,” he said.
Chris Gardner was the final speaker of the evening. Gardner’s autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed movie starring Will Smith and his son Jaden.
Gardner’s rags to riches true-life tale of going from homelessness to astounding success on Wall Street showcases how determination and education can be life-changing.
Gardner’s signature baritone laugh filled the historic barn at Vinegar Hill Friday night.
He said it was his third time being a part of a Barbara Bush Foundation Celebration of Reading, and he flew from South America to Maine to join the celebration.
“That’s kind of how this thing works, when Mrs. Bush calls, you come,” Gardner said.
“You know why we all come whenever she calls? We all come because of the call to action to address a problem that we can do something about. It’s a fact that 35 million people in our country cannot read,” Gardner said.
He said he wrote the book for everyone who had every opportunity to quit, but didn’t. He said his mother taught him to love books and reading, and gave him permission to dream.
To learn more about the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy visit BarbaraBush.org or find them on Facebook and Twitter.