Article By: Manu Shah
A packed room of 140 members and guests welcomed Keynote Speaker Neil Bush at the Distinguished Lecture organized by the IACCGH on October 13th at the Hess Club.
Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia welcomed the gathering and drew attention to an IACCGH Educational Initiative to be launched next year. The initiative would enable deserving students in Houston to intern at a Company that has a base in India and the US to get an overview on how business is conducted in two different cultures. The Executive Director also acknowledged the leaders in the room representing different organizations.
President Ashok Garg, in his introduction, stated that as a society as well as a migrant community, we prize education. However on joining the Literary Advance of America, he was shocked to learn that there is “a literacy crisis” in Houston among both children and adults. He lauded the Keynote Speaker for his “championship of literacy” and continuing the legacy of service that the Bush family is noted for and congratulated him for being the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Impact Award presented by Volunteer Houston recently.
Neil Bush and his wife Maria founded and co-Chair the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation which is dedicated to increasing literacy rates of Houstonians of all ages. He is also the Chairman of Points of Light, an organization that is trying to change lives through the power of volunteerism.
Neil Bush commenced his address by speaking of the “darkness that’s flying under the radar.” He was referring to the number of people who are stuck in poverty and live in conditions where there’s injustice, higher levels of crime and teenage pregnancies with little hope for self-improvement. According to the Keynote Speaker, this “darkness was weighing on our society in a big way.”
Literacy, he continued, is an issue that was first championed by his mother, the Former First Lady Barbara Bush because she believed that a person who could not read could not realize their fullest potential and would always “be chained to the cycle of poverty.”
Citing some “overwhelming” statistics, Neil Bush stated that there’s one book at home for every 300 children living in poverty, 60% of kindergarten kids enter school ill prepared to learn, 24% of third graders failed the STAAR Reading Test and 20% adults in Houston are functionally illiterate which means they cannot even fill out a job application form.
Describing this bleak assessment of the city’s literacy levels as a “human rights issue,” he stated that this affects not only the individual but all of us as it leads to higher crime rates and higher costs related to healthcare, welfare and education.
On a brighter note, the Keynote Speaker also spoke about the positive work that was being done to combat this issue by the 1000’s of nonprofit organizations and the millions of volunteers that act selflessly to lift others. He offered some concrete examples of organizations that are “serving on the frontlines of the literacy crisis,” such at Books between Kids, Literacy Advance of Houston, Read Houston Read and CYCLE. Stressing the idea that “we need to think and act more strategically, collectively and urgently”, he cited progress in Houston through the area wide Early Matters Coalition and neighborhood coalitions like the one in Independence Heights. He also urged the gathering to volunteer and “join the army to combat illiteracy” by going to www.connect4literacy.org to sign up with a qualified organization.
Shell’s VP Fred Whipple proposed the vote of thanks where he expressed his appreciation for the service that the Bush family is doing for communities everywhere and stated that the lecture had “truly inspired him to become a better person.”
IACCGH will be hosting a Women’s Mentoring Event featuring Francene Young, former VP Shell and current Pastor on October 28th. For more information, please visit iaccgh.com
Photography by : Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images