Neil Bush Keynote Address and Q&A
Neil Bush, son of former President H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, continues his mother’s legacy through the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. In his keynote address to the 2018 Texas Annual Conference, Bush passionately urged attendees to embrace Bishop Scott Jones’s “We Love All God’s Children Initiative” by furthering the cause of childhood literacy. Bush asserted that each person is endowed with God-given potential, but that the devastating cycle of intergenerational poverty and illiteracy hinder too many Americans from reaching that potential. “If more people could read, write, and comprehend, we could be much closer to solving so many of the other problems our country faces today,” Bush said.
We were honored to spend some time hearing more from Bush the morning after his address to the Conference. He spoke at length about his family’s legacy, and the calling each one of us has to love our neighbors.
Q: Your family is heavily invested in serving politically, but you chose to give your life to benefit your parents’ foundations. What led you to choose this path?
A: While trying to inspire the nation to serve, Mom and Dad have often said that you don’t have to be President, or a governor, or First Lady to make a difference. There is a calling on each of us to serve. I have been blessed with wonderful role models in my parents. It has become my passion to continue my Mother’s legacy. It has been a blessing to have this calling.
Q: I was so touched by your passion to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Tell me why this means so much to you.
A: I believe that every one of us is born with a God-given potential, but if you happen to be born in certain circumstances, your hope of reaching that potential is limited. It just seems tragic to me that we don’t more often help these individuals realize their potential. Furthermore, when we help everyone in the country become literate and receive their education, so many of our problems just go away. Our country becomes more civil.
But the root of it all is my belief that each one of us is born with a God-given potential and that we have to unleash an army of folks to help them reach it. Faith organizations are more intrinsically motivated because our faith causes us to be Christ-like in lifting the neediest among us.
Q: Now that the TAC has made this connection with the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, how do you hope to see this relationship flourish in the future?
A: First of all, I am so impressed with the Bishop’s leadership in this area. I think it is really critical that faith leaders become engaged with the issue of literacy. I hope that the clergy who attended the Texas Annual Conference will be inspired to do more in their communities to get their parishioners to go into their back yards to help their brothers and sisters in need, and to do it more actively and aggressively.
My final observation is that churches are losing ground these days; One way to appeal to the younger generations is develop a culture of service to others. Young people want to be involved with companies where they are called into action in their communities to help the neediest among us. The same bottom line effects our churches. I hope that over time the UMC embraces the notion that service is not only good for the people being served but it is also great for the institution.