Darelyn 'DJ' Mitsch

Learning and leadership: How a lifetime of reading can grow a leader

Former President George H. W. Bush wore socks with a book design to honor his wife, Barbara, during her funeral.

Former President George H. W. Bush wore socks with a book design to honor his wife, Barbara, at her funeral. The photo was taken by a Bush family friend.

Reflecting on the contributions of former First Lady Barbara Bush, as the nation honored her life of service this weekend, I was struck by the image of President George H.W. Bush as he was wheeled in to the memorial by his son President George W. Bush, to sit by her casket and say his farewell to the mortal coil of his wife of 73 years.

What struck me was President Bush’s socks. Colorful, vibrant socks, covered in books. It was a fitting tribute to a woman who spent a lifetime promoting literacy, libraries and reading and creating the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Jon Meacham, a historian and president biographer who spoke at the funeral, said Mrs. Bush “believed literacy a fundamental, civil, and human right and gave the cause her all.”

What a legacy to leave your country! The power of reading, the opportunity for lifetime learning, the chance to challenge your own beliefs and expand your knowledge through the wisdom of others.

I once read (of course!) that the most important legacy parents can leave children is a collection of great literature of all kinds, to expand their minds, to teach them about the world around them, to encourage their personal growth.

I think great leaders make time for continuous learning, for reading, in their lives, using the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

As we honor Barbara Bush and her amazing legacy to the United States, I’d like to think that she’s hoping we’ll read. Read to our children. Read as parents. Read as professionals. Read as good citizens. Read to make us the best leaders we can be.

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