A tireless advocate of volunteerism, Mrs. Barbara Pierce Bush helped countless charities and humanitarian causes throughout her years in public life, though her primary focus was promoting family literacy. Mrs. Bush was the wife of the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, and mother of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. Mrs. Bush was only the second woman in U.S. history to be both wife and mother of a U.S. president. Recognized fondly as the “First Lady of Literacy,” she began championing the literacy cause while in the White House. In fact, Mrs. Bush played an integral role in advocating for the passage of the National Literacy Act of 1991. She continued to advocate for universal literacy for more than 25 years, and her literacy legacy will live on for many years to come.
Mrs. Bush was passionate in her belief that everyone has the right to read. She believed that “most of our nation’s problems would be solved if every man, woman and child could read, write and comprehend.” With this in mind, she set out to raise awareness across the U.S. about the value of reading and learning, a requisite for having an equal chance to succeed in life. Dedicated to breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in America, Mrs. Bush supported programs that enable parents and their young children to learn together. In 1989, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which has awarded more than $50 million to create or expand family literacy programs across the country.
Mrs. Bush authored two children's books, C. Fred's Story and the best-selling Millie's Book, both of which benefited literacy through proceeds from sales. She also wrote the best-selling Barbara Bush: A Memoir and Reflections: Life After the White House. In addition to award-winning books, Mrs. Bush has been widely recognized for her legacy of service and unwavering support for the literacy cause, as well as her impact on countless lives touched through her efforts.
In 2013, Neil and Maria Bush formed the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to carry forth their mother’s legacy and focus deeply on the literacy cause in the Bush family’s hometown and the nation’s most diverse and fourth largest city. Founded on Mrs. Bush’s belief: “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is dedicated to improving lives through the power of literacy and breaking of the intergenerational cycle of low literacy.
As a role model for leading a life of service to others and a champion of the literacy cause for more than three decades, Mrs. Barbara Bush will forever be our inspiration for helping people reach their fullest potential in life through the power of literacy. The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s mission is rooted in her vision. Mrs. Bush encouraged all of us to get involved in something bigger than ourselves, in the big ideas of our time and live a life of purpose and meaning. The most befitting way to honor Mrs. Bush’s legacy is to continue advancing the Foundation’s work within the Houston community and realizing her vision of literacy for all.