This week I nervously watched my 90-year-old father parachute from a plane in Kennebunkport, Maine. I guess I should not have been surprised. He was the youngest pilot in World War II and now he is probably one of the oldest skydivers.
He has always been a risk-taker, brave and courageous in my eyes. Throughout his life, he never shied away from taking bold steps. Whether it was serving in the military or as president of the United States, my father wanted to greatly contribute to our nation and to lead effectively.
I will never forget when he wrote: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”
For my father, it was never so much about soaring rhetoric as it was about practicing what you preach. His truth was conservative values always started with family and friends.
Behind the strong and bold leader, lives a gentle giant -- the most loving father, grandfather, great grandfather and husband. As my parents have entered their golden years, I have seen their love only deepen. He still views my mother as the most beautiful (and smartest) woman in the room.
Even as he worked tirelessly all these years, we always felt so loved by him. My parents’ love for us is the strong foundation of our family and has given each of us the courage to pursue our dreams.
While he can’t physically walk anymore, he continues to show me how to walk in ways that fully treasure each moment God gives us. He is also teaching me the beauty of aging gracefully and the importance of family.
His joyous and optimistic personality is contagious. My friends would tell me that “I was the luckiest person in the world,” because they all adored my dad. Whether it was going on picnics or leading games outside, my dad knew how to create quality time. He was never too busy for us.
Growing up, I always felt the love and support of my dad, even when he was not around. Although, as a public servant, my father spent a lot of time on the road, he always had time to write letters to each of his five children, his wife and his friends. He best expressed himself through the written word. To this day, I have kept his special letters, which he always signed “Devotedly, Dad.” I will never forget when he wrote: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”
His determined, kind and adventurous spirit is part of who I am today. I am proud to continue the great work of my parents. My father has been an avid supporter of my mother’s and my efforts at expanding the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. He is so proud of my mom and her work in promoting early learning and adult education, which includes teaching children and their parents how to read and write.
As the foundation’s co-chair, I have had the great fortunate of meeting families who share a passion for learning and want a better future for themselves and their children. Our programs help young children participate in early learning while their parents are able to go back to school and finish their education. It is a win-win formula for our families in need and our nation as a whole.
Our helpthemread.org campaign brings awareness to the 30 million Americans who cannot read or write at a basic level, and their inability to help their children learn to read. The foundation is helping parents and their children learn to read and write. How wonderful when a parent with low-literacy skills succeeds in our program and is able to write a letter to their own child.
I hope every child can experience the joy of receiving a written letter from a mom, dad, grandparent or other family members. It is a special way to express one’s love for our children. I know that receiving a written letter from my dad was incredibly comforting and made me feel greatly loved.
For this Father’s Day, I encourage all dads to write a letter or read a favorite book to their child. Reading and writing are rewarding gifts that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren.