In third grade, I received a piece of advice from former First Lady Barbara Bush that I have held sacred for the past 27 years, “Never call anyone before or after 9.” That simple tidbit of wisdom helped me avoid contempt, but in that moment, was one of the most important things ever said to me. Not because it came from the Former First Lady, but because she assumed I was old enough for my parents to allow me to use the phone. Prior to the internet, phone allowance determined one’s social standing at school. I had l little of this privilege, but one former White House official, seemed to think I made the cut. I have not placed an unexpected phone call before or after 9.

A few months prior, her husband was the first President I voted for in a mock election at school that introduced me to politics. (And my mother, in her insistence that “this is a Bush family,” introduced me to lobbying.) Several years later, President Bush’s Points of Light speech inspired my career in public service.

As a child, I equated Mrs. Bush’s legacy with a constant nag at school – and as “a Bush family” at home - to read more books. Today, I volunteer with an organization that champions literacy in a city with great scholarly institutions, but also alarming rates of adult illiteracy in our poorest neighborhoods.

As volunteers, we have first-hand transformed children’s confidence, their relationships with their parent or caregiver, and their futures through literacy.  I think of Jacob* – a precocious and bright 5-year old boy who was constantly frustrated with school and with his caring young mother. They lived in a nearby homeless shelter, and she could not read the instructions on his homework. As volunteers, we would read anything written at an advanced level, and Jacob’s mother supported her son as he completed his homework.

Mrs. Bush once said, "If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities."

Well, although Jacob’s performance at school improved, he apparently developed a mischievous tendency to wake his classmates up at naptime and read to them.

Mrs. Bush’s commitment to literacy and an empathetic understanding of one’s ability to impact the lives of others drove shaped her legacy. Her inevitable, even if apolitical, influence in the White House over two Presidencies served as a point of hopeful light and reassuring strength. I am just one point of light she inspired, but in speaking with my fellow volunteers and public servants, she inspired many more. One informed me that Mrs. Bush had spent her final day enjoying bourbon with friends and family.

What a great way and a great legacy to celebrate.

*Name changed to protect his family’s privacy.