What began as a focal point of a hotel lobby has become a sign of a legacy of literacy at The George.
Neil Bush was on hand Wednesday to help dedicate the book wall art installation in College Station hotel to his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush.
"Thank you for the vision for putting this wall to such great use and for sustaining the memory of an amazing lady whose life was dedicated to service, but specifically to helping people realize their fullest potential through literacy," he said during the ceremony.
Constructed out of 10,000 used books -- nonfiction, fiction and textbooks -- in the shape of the Texas flag, the wall has become the most photographed spot in Century Square. Among the titles are Texas A&M textbooks, a National Geographic Society collection of United States presidents and George W. Bush's book Decision Points.
One of Barbara Bush's favorite authors, though, was Candice Millard, Neil Bush said.
"She's got three books, and they're all just beautifully written historical books about Teddy Roosevelt and his experience going down the Lost River in the Amazon, so it was after he was president, and he almost died. It was a treacherous experience, but it was a beautiful description of the Amazon. And she writes about Churchill's experience in the Boer War in South Africa. She loved those books," Bush said. "My mom loved every book probably she touched. She liked trashy novels. She liked historical novels. She read just about everything."
Bush said over the past four years, as his parents' health deteriorated, he read at least 14 books with them, from books on the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States to Bush family books.
"Before my mom passed away, I read the Barbara Bush Memoirs to her, which was a fabulous book to read to a lady that was passing on to the next life, because she lived an amazing life and she wrote in her words," he said.
Wednesday's dedication gives a deeper meaning to the wall of books, which Midway chairman Brad Freels said was missing before being renamed in memory of Barbara Bush.
After Barbara Bush's death in April at the age of 92, Freels said, he contacted Neil Bush about the idea of naming the book wall after the Bush matriarch to honor her legacy to literacy throughout the country.
"I love it," Bush said about the Barbara Bush Book Wall -- titled Go Big or Go Home by Thedra Cullar-Ledford -- being the first thing people see when they enter The George hotel.
"I love the fact that they're going to see this beautiful picture and this amazing display of all these books. It's very nice," he said. "It's a great reflection and representation of an amazing legacy that my mom has been a proponent of for all of her years that literacy is a foundational skill that is basically a determinant of your future success in many ways. If you can't read at an age-appropriate level, you can't succeed in school. If you can't read as an adult at an age-appropriate level, you're not going to be able to realize your fullest potential as an adult. I continue her legacy in the role as chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and support regional activities like [the Amy Anderson Literacy Legacy project]."
Following the presentation, Bush credited Freels with the initial idea to have the Barbara Bush Book Wall in the lobby of The George.
While the hotel is named for the great Georges in Texas history and is situated only three miles from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, according to a press release, Bush said there is something even more fitting to the placement of the wall dedicated to his mother.
"The restaurant, which is named Poppy, is my father's nickname as a young boy," he said. "I understand there are many Georges that have had close connections to Texas A&M, so he doesn't have the sole claim to the name George as it relates to the hotel, but there's only one Poppy, and there's only one Barbara Bush Book Wall."
Next to the wall is a plaque unveiled Wednesday with Barbara Bush's picture noting her place as the "First Lady and Champion of Literacy" with a quote from her that says, "My wish is for every parent and child to experience the joy of reading and a lifetime of learning."
During the dedication, Bush also presented College Station ISD Education Foundation Executive Director Teresa Benden with a $1,000 check to benefit the foundation's Amy Anderson Literacy Legacy program.
The program gives students in College Station Head Start and pre-kindergarten classes a $10 voucher to purchase books at their school's book fair and build their home library. The donation from the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation will fund vouchers for 100 students.
"Barbara Bush has such a great legacy about living for literacy in our country, and so we're just thrilled to be able to be a part of that, promoting literacy in our local schools and to be a part of that," Benden said after the presentation.
During the dedication, it was also announced The George will be starting a "Round Up for Reading" program in which guests can donate any amount to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.
"We're really excited to carry the legacy forward and believe strongly that my mom had it right that literacy is really such an important issue. We should have a societal focus on it," Neil Bush said.