Former Gov. Bush announces literacy initiative, talks about running for president

Dania Maxwell/Staff
Scenes from the 14th annual Celebration of Reading at the Coconut Point Hyatt on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Bonita Springs. The event supports The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, whose mission is to achieve 100 percent literacy in America. This mission is based on the belief that education is a civil right for all, regardless of age.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL, NAPLES DAILY NEWS // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff Scenes from the 14th annual Celebration of Reading at the Coconut Point Hyatt on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Bonita Springs. The event supports The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, whose mission is to achieve 100 percent literacy in America. This mission is based on the belief that education is a civil right for all, regardless of age.

Jeb Bush at the Florida Celebration of Reading

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The nation’s 41st President and a dazzling television darling commanded applause at Friday night’s Celebration of Reading, but it was the unknown mother from Central America who commanded the attendees’ admiration.

Maria Flores Arguelles, formerly a national police officer in El Salvador and a dishwasher upon her arrival in America, told her story in broken but eloquent English to a crowd of about 750. They gave her a standing ovation in recognition not only of what she’s overcome, but of the power of education and literacy.

“When I arrived I couldn’t understand anyone or anything, I couldn’t speak English when I took my children to the doctor or the dentist,” Arguelles said, explaining she later found an adult literacy program with Grace Place and began her journey to learn English. “Now I feel happy, thankful and proud. God bless you.”

Former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush greeted the crowd via Skype, as did author and Desperate Housewives actress Teri Hatcher, who was unable to attend in person as planned. Former Gov. Jeb Bush also endeared the audience as he remained mum on any plans for a 2016 presidential bid, though he did share his thoughts on the upcoming governor’s race, and introduced an initiative he hopes will transform family literacy in Lee County and across the nation.

“Now we’re ready to take the next step in bridging an early learning gap in our communities.” Bush said, announcing the Family and Community Connections Initiative. “For the first time we will take a communitywide approach by partnering with multiple adult literacy and early childhood providers.”

He said the goal is to put together the two types of providers, which generally operate separately and independently in communities. He referred to “intergenerational learning opportunities for young families,” meaning parents and youngsters can learn together.

“And by the end of the year, Lee County parents who have children five and under will be able to apply for Barbara Bush scholarships valued at $2,500, which is a really good sum,” Bush said.

Bush referenced his mother on several other occasions throughout the evening: To honor the work she’s done for the past 25 years, to address questions about her suggesting he not run for president and, when asked about former governor and current gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, to cite a valuable lesson the former first lady instilled in him.

“I’m all in for Rick Scott; I think he’s done a good job, he’s worked really hard,” Bush said. “I just really prefer not to talk about Charlie Crist. In honor of my mother, who taught me not to say bad things about people, I think I’ll take a pass.”

He may have been taking a page from his mother with the comment, as Barbara Bush hasn’t been shy when answering questions about her opinions either, particularly of son Jeb trying to become the third president of the United States in one immediate family.

“That protective mother instinct, I think, has kicked up a couple times in the last few months about whether or not I’m going to run,” Bush told reporters before the event. “I always listen to my mother; I don’t always follow her advice — I’ve gotten in trouble sometimes for not following it — but in this case I’m going to wait until later this year to decide.”

Bush said that decision process will hinge on whether it seems right for his family, whether he can do it with joy in his heart and if he feels he can truly lift Americans’ spirits, something he thinks the country could use more than ever. He called politics an ugly business, saying: “It’s always been ugly, but it seems to have gotten a little bit uglier.” He said normal people, living their normal lives, aren’t losing sleep over when he makes his decision. He’ll make it in good time, after reflecting carefully, he said.

“If I don’t, I’ve got a blessed life; I’m living large,” he said. “I’ve got three grandkids, I’ve got a great business, I get to express my views about things I’m passionate about — so this is not going to be some kind of struggling, ‘woe-is-me’ decision processes.”

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Comments » 15

Rainman11 writes:

Two Bushes were enough for me.

One Clinton has been enough for me.

One Obama has been to much for me.

Hopefully there will be a true unite'r (please forgive my spelling) and lover of America that runs this time.

cons3rvative writes:

I didn't read the article but from the headline it looks like Bush is finally going to learn how to read.... good for him.

xaltd1#276012 writes:

As a person, he appears to be a good man. As a politician, he seemed like a good governor. In the absence of a true unite'r and lover of America, he would probably get my vote, regardless of his last name.

AmericasTrueRecoveryBeginsIn2016 writes:

This country needs another president named Bush like it needs another president named Clinton.

Stay home, Jeb.

naplesregular writes:

I saw the first Bush as a true politician of the old guard who did a decent job. The 2nd Bush as a passionate man for America in a difficult situation who may have been over his head at times but who lead with his heart. Jeb seems to be a combo of both. Knows the political terrain, passionate about America and very likeable. I personally admired how he governed Florida and would vote for him if he ran. Rubio as a VP? Would be interesting.

If he doesn't run, I cringe at what other candidates the Rep's would put on the slate... their track record is poor. Romney would probably have had us out of the recession much sooner than Pres. Obama did but he didn't have the charisma of Obama. Prior, McCain was a terrible choice for the Rep. He had the reputation of a war hero but is just such a maverick in so many bad ways. In retrospect, I'd much rather of had Hilary instead of Obama. I think we would have fared better as a country to date.

Just the opinion of a centrist who votes that is not interested in speaking/debating with the fringe elements who base their whole existence on arguing politics.

BonitaTango writes:

“That protective mother instinct, I think, has kicked up a couple times in the last few months about whether it not I’m going to run,”
Whether IT? or not
New colloquialism?

Jomayski writes:

No. Two Bushes were enough.

MasonDixon writes:

in response to BonitaTango:

“That protective mother instinct, I think, has kicked up a couple times in the last few months about whether it not I’m going to run,”
Whether IT? or not
New colloquialism?

Did you even consider the source of the quote?
Poor grammar by "reporters" seems to be an ongoing problem on this website.

anicou writes:

in response to naplesregular:

I saw the first Bush as a true politician of the old guard who did a decent job. The 2nd Bush as a passionate man for America in a difficult situation who may have been over his head at times but who lead with his heart. Jeb seems to be a combo of both. Knows the political terrain, passionate about America and very likeable. I personally admired how he governed Florida and would vote for him if he ran. Rubio as a VP? Would be interesting.

If he doesn't run, I cringe at what other candidates the Rep's would put on the slate... their track record is poor. Romney would probably have had us out of the recession much sooner than Pres. Obama did but he didn't have the charisma of Obama. Prior, McCain was a terrible choice for the Rep. He had the reputation of a war hero but is just such a maverick in so many bad ways. In retrospect, I'd much rather of had Hilary instead of Obama. I think we would have fared better as a country to date.

Just the opinion of a centrist who votes that is not interested in speaking/debating with the fringe elements who base their whole existence on arguing politics.

Good post!

Heraclitus writes:

Speaking of literacy, I wonder if he believes in scientific literacy? I wonder how old he thinks the planet Earth is?

wentfishn writes:

He was a good governor.

wentfishn writes:

in response to Heraclitus:

Speaking of literacy, I wonder if he believes in scientific literacy? I wonder how old he thinks the planet Earth is?

Smoke another one!

Heraclitus writes:

in response to wentfishn:

Smoke another one!

Teapublicans:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms0PY...

Welcome to their world...and this guy is on the Science Committee.

FifiFarley writes:

People that know me in real life would choke by me saying this, but I didn't mind Jeb as governor. It was hard being a liberal from the city of Chicago and then moving down here and being doubled "Bushed" in 2000, but Jeb didn't bother me. I felt he cared for the people of FL. Maybe I was just new to the repub mist or something. Now, would I vote for him as Prez? Not with a Rubio near him!!!! He'd have to have an impressive VP and he can't be too far right. Nor do I want someone too far left. Let's all just meet in the Fing middle shall we?

HenryChinaski writes:

Bush and literacy initiative in the same sentence is wrong.

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