October 22, 2014

Maryland Celebration of Reading

Four of our staff recently attended the Maryland Celebration of Reading for the Barbara Bush Foundation. Marcia, our Social Media Manager, writes from her perspective.

I remember the pearls that Mrs. Barbara Bush used to wear when her husband was in office. She spurred quite a trend when she was our Nation’s First Lady. I always thought she seemed like such a lovely person. Her senses of humor and caring were always apparent to me. I had the great pleasure of seeing her in person Tuesday night (from a distance of a few hundred feet) and although the whole evening was terrific, that was the high point for me. There was a palpable excitement in the room as she walked across the stage to greet the attendees. Guest author David Feherty quoted a friend of his saying, “people with no sense of humor have no sense of proportion.” I am quite sure that Mrs. Bush has an excellent sense of both….and great pearls!

Mrs. Barbara Bush and our CEO, Dr. Sally Ann Zoll

United Through Reading attended the Maryland Celebration of Reading for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy. It was the eighth such benefit and over the years they have raised $3.5 million for Maryland literacy programs. On this evening, Doro Bush Koch and Tricia Koch  invited all to join them in their family’s life-long passion, to applaud the gift of literacy and the transformational effect that reading together has on families.
While our programs target audiences from different angles, we share a love of reading with the Barbara Bush Foundation. Our largest common denominator is the love of our nation’s military. This feeling was obvious at the benefit by the attendance of many in uniform and the respect with which they were treated.

Distinguished authors were asked to read from their recent works in the acoustically perfect Strathmore Hall… the one who stood out for me was Donavan Campbell. Respect for the military was emphasized by Campbell when speaking about the impetus for writing his book, Joker One. He said that while he was overseas with his Marine battalion he regretted not writing up more awards for his men. He described those Marines as people who did their job because they loved their country and who wanted to protect the Marine next to them at all times, at all costs. He knew that they weren’t going to get a pay raise or even a promotion based on valor and he regrets not taking more time to write their individual acts of courage and bravery in award form. He hopes that this book will tell their story and give them the credit they deserve. He wrote that his men taught him that “love is expressed in the only currency that matters in combat: Action.”

One of his comments that really hit me was about the loss of life and limb while being stationed in the most violent area of the war theater at that time. He said, “ ..Those men have not LOST any limbs. They have given them away, for YOU.” There were Wounded Warriors at the event that night and after Donovan finished speaking there was a standing ovation in recognition and appreciation for what they have done. There was not a dry eye in the place, including those of Donovan Campbell. He spoke with such passion for what he has seen that it was impossible not to be moved. Almost a week has passed and I cannot get that phrase out of my mind, “they gave them away for you.”

As a Navy wife of 20 years, I know that my husband has been in some pretty tense situations. I also know that while he was in them, that he was truly in those moments, committed to the duty at hand and representing all of us while he was there. I thought about that a lot over the past few days with a grateful heart for the sacrifices made by so many and also for their families at home waiting. With only about 1% of our population serving in the military it is sometimes difficult to explain that kind of patriotism to neighbors or others in the community. Donovan touched on this when he said, “You can’t explain red to someone who is color blind.” But in that auditorium last week, there was no doubt of the level of appreciation for our men and women in uniform.

Donovan spoke of how the young Marines, mainly 18-21 years of age, could bear the pressure of their situation. He said they care about something greater than themselves and that the most important thing they have is their character. Not things they owned or what they do, but what type of person they are. Isn’t that true for all of us? Don’t we all respond more strongly in the tough times if we have faith in something bigger? If we know that the experience will teach us something we can use in the future?

Donovan said he is often asked, “What is the best way to thank a veteran?” His response is that “these service members are there because they believe the United States of America is worth dying for. We need to do our part at home to make sure that America not only stays great, but gets better. We must be the best we can be, raise our children to love and to serve and teach them to read!”

There were many wonderful author-speakers at this event, yet Donovan Campbell spoke to my heart. He described people I know, people I have lived next door to, people with whom we have had the honor and privilege of serving. Donovan said, “Semper Fi”, and so do I!