- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brotherhood, motherhood and faith in the face of tragedy were among the topics at Wednesday’s fourth annual Celebration of Reading benefiting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

The event, held at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, raised more than $1 million for reading programs in Maryland.

Several hundred guests, including representatives of corporate supporters Freddie Mac, Verizon Maryland and The Washington Times, were present for the program, which began with a televised “guest appearance” from President Bush — in reality, acclaimed impersonator Steve Bridges.

“Growing up, there was always pressure to be literate,” Mr. Bridges said, prompting laughter.

After the short skit, Barbara Bush and former President George Bush took the stage.

“And you thought Dana Carvey was funny,” the former president said, referring to the comedian’s impersonations of him on “Saturday Night Live” back in the day.

Mrs. Bush, wearing a red pantsuit and her trademark pearls, introduced her daughter, Doro Bush Koch (who heads the literacy foundation’s Maryland initiative with her sister-in-law Tricia Reilly Koch) before showing a short video about the organization’s accomplishments and a presentation by a teenage high school dropout and mother who turned her life around through the program’s parenting, GED and literacy classes.

Seven guest authors were invited to share selections from their books.

NFL players and twin brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber read from their third children’s book, “Teammates,” about two brothers improving their skill through practice and hard work.

New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer shared the first riveting chapter of “The Book of Fate,” a political thriller. Mother-daughter duo Sheila Solomon Klass and Perri Klass read dialogue from their humorous and poignant memoir, “Every Mother Is a Daughter: The Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen.” In “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” Immaculee Ilibagiza reported how her Catholic faith was strengthened through a torturous three-month period of hiding during the massacre of her country’s Tutsi minority by the rival Hutu tribe.

“No matter what happens to you, there is hope,” Mrs. Ilibagiza told her enthralled audience.

Finally, James A. Baker III, who served in senior positions under three Republican presidents, read from his memoir, “Work Hard, Study … and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons From an Unexpected Public Life.” Following the program, guests were invited to join the Bush family for a buffet-style dinner in the Lockheed Martin Lobby and adjacent outdoor terrace.

Natasha Altamirano

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