John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


A Celebration of Reading...with the Bushes

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In 1989, former First Lady Barbara Bush aimed her formidable celebrity and clout in a direction Americans of all political stripes could get behind: helping the illiterate to read. She founded The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and during the ensuing 19 years the charity has awarded some $30 million to more than 700 literacy programs spread across all 50 states. And that is a whole lot of resources helping people of all ages learn to read. Bravo!

Every year President and Mrs. Bush hold three different fund-raiser galas to raise money for the foundation -- one in Houston, one in Dallas, and one in Maryland. Last week, I had the privilege of being one of six authors featured at the Dallas gala, and what a great time we all had. The elder President Bush and Mrs. Bush were delightful -- charming and witty and down to earth. I spent more time with them that day than I imagined I would be able to. First lunch, then dinner, and in the green room before we took to the stage in front of 1,000 guests.

At lunch, I told President Bush that he and I had met once long ago. I was a young reporter in 1984 covering politics for the (oh so powerful and prestigious) Kalamazoo Gazette in western Michigan. Then Vice President Bush swung through town on a campaign swing for his boss, President Reagan. He granted me a one-on-one interview, and for 20 minutes it was just the vice president and me (and, OK, a dozen aides and Secret Service officers) in a room talking. For me, it was a career highlight; for him of course it was a blip. When I told him the story, and how proud my parents were to have a signed photograph from him of our meeting, the famously humble former president seemed genuinely surprised I'd find the encounter worth recounting more than two decades later.

This was not the setting to talk politics, and my mother taught me to keep my mouth shut if I didn't have something positive to say, and yet I thought I should acknowledge the current president's tenure in the White House.
"I bet you're anxious to get your son back home," I told President Bush.
"Yes, I am," he said. "I'm proud of him. So much of the criticism has been unfair." And then he quickly added: "Not all of it. Some of it was deserved. I'll just be glad to get him back home to Texas and out from under the microscope of The New York Times." I was impressed by his candor, at once a proud father yet still able to acknowledge the reality on the ground.

The evening was dubbed "A Celebration of Reading," and my fellow authors and I each were introduced by Mrs. Bush before we read short sections from our books. I read the scene from The Longest Trip Home describing my mother's attempt to turn her very Catholic bedroom into a romantic honeymoon suite for my new bride and me right after our wedding. It drew big laughs from the crowd, even if it was probably slightly on the bawdy side for this kind of event. "Well, that's one we won't forget for a while," Mrs. Bush quipped to the crowd.

As the night concluded, I told President and Mrs. Bush what an honor it was to be included in their event, and that I felt privileged to have been able to help their worthy cause. Just like that young reporter back in Kalamazoo, I'll be talking about this day for a long time to come.

posted by John Grogan at 8:34 AM


Blogger DIANE OLYNNGER said...

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5:35 PM  
Blogger Arthur Snyder said...

Mr. Grogan,
I just finished reading The Longest Trip Home...very enjoyable. I haven't read Marley and Me yet, but I will do so before seeing the movie. Congratulations on your work being produced for the big screen. Of course, based on past experience the book is always better than the movie!

I will be in touch to invite you to our university as a guest in 2009. Hope you will be able to make it.


Arthur Snyder
Indiana Institute of Technology
Fort Wayne, Indiana

12:01 PM  
Blogger Luau de Dois said...

Mr. Grogan,
I finished reading "Marley and Me" it's so perfect, indescribable. I really love and admire your work. Congratulations.

4:18 PM  
Blogger tootie said...

What a neat experience!

I can't wait to read the Longest Trip Home. Marley and Me is one of my favorites!

1:00 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

My dog died this past October. One of the things I did to help deal with this loss was to read Marley and Me, partly because it just looked like a good book, but also because I knew it would make me feel that closeness to my dog that I miss so much. I was right, on both counts, and for that I thank you. But I have to tell you that you are wrong wrong wrong when it comes to the idea of training a dog using the dominance model. There are countless academic professionals who have shown why the learning theory model is so much more effective and much much more humane. I know you loved your dog, I felt it in your words. And I know that many of the training techniques you had to use seemed like your best option. I just ask that you look into this other way. I believe Marley was pretty bright despite all of his insanity or maybe because of it, my dog had some similar behaviors because she was a lab mix, and she was smart. She was the dog by which all of my future dogs will be measured, like your first dog in your childhood. Please look into books by Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian in San Francisco, and Jean Donaldson, the Director of the San Francisco SPCA Academy for dog trainers, and Christine Dahl, owner of Seattle Dogworks and recent author of a very useful tool, "Good Dog 101". I'd love to hear what you think about their methods. With your popularity, you have a very important influence over the dog owning public, one that I can tell you take seriously. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Best wishes,

7:37 PM  
Blogger David Winter said...

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10:09 AM  
Blogger David Winter said...


I have read Marley and Me as well as The Longest Trip Home. For a relatively new writer, you are indeed gifted. Marley and Me made me laugh, cry and identify. At the time of Marley and Me we had two labs, one like Marley, named Rosa and a 14 year old, white Lab named Maggie. Maggie passed away two years ago and now we have added Chloe, another white Lab. You certainly captured the very essence of what it means to be a Lab.

I just finished reading The Longest Trip Home. Honestly, I cried the last two hours of the book. I'm slightly older than you are, as while you were finishing high school, I was in Vietnam for two and 1/2 years.

It is close to impossible to do, but I believe you did a marvelous job of capturing the very meaning of spirituality. Like you, I left religion at a young age. I have never had a desire to return to organized religion; however, your parents captured, lived and died in a cloud of spiritual belief. They were remarkable people.

I hope you continue to find inspiration around you because it does seem you have many special things to share. I'm certainly hooked because I've gained a lot from what I've read that enhances the quality and meaning of my own life. Because of you I may have just become a slightly better person. Please continue with your work.

David Winter

10:10 AM  
Blogger aline said...

Hello Mr Grogan, how are you?
I want you to know that I read his book "Marley and Me" and I am very identified with it, mainly because I have two Labrador, a black (Toby), 1 year old, and a yellow (Scooter) of 5 months year old. Scoot has the same characteristics of Marley. But what surprises me most is that they both have a passion in common: water. When my parents and I take them to the river to swim, we do not need or draw, they come with great pleasure. The only problem is the water get them to return home.
My family and I anxiously await the film which will be launched "Marley and Me."
I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your entire family.

Aline Paulin
Brazil - Sao Paulo

5:12 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

I had just finished typing a long commentary to you about how much I had enjoyed reading Marley and Me and how I was taking an "emotional break" from The Longest Trip Back Home after reading the chapter about your father's death. You see, I am 82 years old, married to a wonderful man for 61 years - married August 30, 1947, two weeks after your parents.

You write so beautifully and naturally I relat to so much of what you have written in both books - we had two black labs (13 years each) as our family of five was growing up.

Thank you so much for such beautiful books. Would love to read some of your columns. Have you considered putting them in book form?

Mary Jungbluth

1:15 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Thank you for " The Longest Trip Home". I read Marley And Me And knew I liked your style but you really hit a home run with your latest work. Growing up Irish Catholic I relate to everything you experienced. My parents were devoted like yours except for the religious site visits. Thank you for sharing such a loving personal story.

6:24 PM  
Blogger LoverOfDogs said...

Mr. Grogan

I loved reading your novel, and just today, my family and I watched Marley & Me. I had to stay behind to recover from crying so much. Nearly everyone in the theatre began sniffling and asking for tissues. The end, as anyone could admit, was the saddest. When I wet home, the movie inspired me to want to hold on to my three dogs tightly so that I never lose them. The movie really touched my heart, and you, like many dog-book authors, inspire me to write the story about my dogs. There has been humor (like my Australian shepherd eating a whole bag of gummie bears) yet sadness as well (my Aussie getting a tumor at five months old) but I would love to write, write, write! Thank you so much for reading, and a big "bravo" to Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson for making the movie so great!

5:56 PM  
Blogger Suzan said...

Mr. Grogan,
I went and saw Marley and Me in the theatres today and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I have never read any of your work, being a Canadian). One thing I really appreciated was the way your marriage was depicted in a rather realistic way. I just about cheered at some of the lines - like Jenny explaining that being a stay-at-home mom is harder than she expected, and that she had given up a lot for her choice. It is so nice to see a real relationship that I can relate to and respect up on the big screen.
I am now going to look for your new memoir to read.

9:07 PM  

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