Former President George W. Bush and Matthew McConaughey headline star-studded and bookish Barbara Bush bash

Charismatic former President George W. Bush recently joined authors Mark Sullivan, husband-wife duo Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser, Elin Hilderbrand, and Matthew McConaughey (virtually) for the 27th annual A Celebration of Reading.

More than 340 guests gathered at The Post Oak Hotel in Uptown for the hybrid in-person and virtual program.

Meanwhile, some 200 event sponsors attended the event virtually from home. This year’s event raised more than $1.9 million to advance literacy, a cause former First Lady Barbara Bush championed for three decades.

To kick off the program, guests were treated to a compilation of videos including a tribute to former First Lady Barbara Bush, her game plan to tackle literacy with J.J. Watt, and a celebration of former President George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Bush’s life together.

Popular KPRC Channel 2 anchor Dominique Sachse opened the evening by welcoming guests and introducing foundation chairs Maria and Neil Bush. The couple recognized the Former First Lady who personally created A Celebration of Reading to raise awareness and funds to advance her cause of literacy.

“We must create a sense of urgency around literacy issues. Undoubtedly, the work of the foundation to expand reading tutoring and summer literacy programs, equip underserved children with books to read at home, empower parents with the skills to support their child’s reading success at home, and boost adult literacy rates are more important now, than ever before,” noted Neil.

When President George W. Bush took the stage, he and brother Neil joked about who was their mother’s favorite son. President Bush later read a touching story from his new book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants, about Paula Rendon, the Mexican immigrant who helped raise he and his siblings.

“She was the first immigrant I really knew. She came to America to better the lives of her children, but she also bettered ours,” the former president noted.

Following the reading, President Bush sat down with Sachse for an interview on his book and additional stories of the immigrants his paintings and book portrays.

The outspoken former leader also shared his views on current political issues, including the need for bipartisan immigration reform and the importance of restoring DACA.

Elin Hilderbrand followed, sharing her journey of becoming a writer, what motivates her, and how many of her readers shared that her work has helped them get through quarantine. “Everyone deserves to spend a summer at the beach,” said Hilderbrand. (Her upcoming book, Golden Girl, is set to release this June.)

Mark Sullivan discussed his personal struggles and his discovery of Pinot Leila’s story featured in his Amazon No. 1 bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky, which centers on a forgotten hero during World War II, as well as what led him to write his just-released novel, The Last Green Valley.

Sachse also joined Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser to discuss The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker, III, their recent novel about the beloved former U.S. Secretary of State. Baker, Chief White House correspondent for the New York Times and MSNBC political analyst, and Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker and founder of Politico Magazine, also shared thoughts on current events and politics.

Finally, McConaughey joined Sachse in a lively, pre-recorded interview on his family, life, and New York Times bestselling book, Greenlights.

Closing out the program, Houston-area natives and finalists on Season 19 of NBC’s The Voice, John Holiday and Desz, performed several songs together (for the first time), ending the evening with a duet performance of “Lovely Day” by Demi Lovato.

Following the event, Neil and Maria Bush, along with Sachse, returned to the stage to wish former Baker, who was in the audience, a happy birthday, replete with a surprise birthday cake. (The former secretary of state turned 91 on April 28.)

Those who missed the event can catch a one-hour, commercial-free rebroadcast on KPRC Channel 2 on Saturday, May 8 at 7 pm.

Who: Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck; Susan Baker and Secretary James A. Baker, III; Shahla and Hushang Ansary; Al Carnrite; Joselyn Tego andJeff Carnrite; Cathy and Joe Cleary; Melanie and Jerry Martin; Nick Florescu; Sidney Faust; Betty and John Hrncir; Paige Fertitta; Kathrine McGovern; Terri and John Havens; Lisa and Mark Jakel; Annette and George Strake, Jr.; Alice and Keith Mosing; Kathy and Marty Goossen; Laurie and Mark Lashier; Terri and Greg Ebel; Martha and Mark Carnes; Iris and Bill Griffiths; and Ginger Blanton.

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