Nearly two and a half decades have passed since then-Vice President George H.W. Bush first spoke of the nation's volunteer organizations as "a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky." In the intervening years, a thousand points of light have multiplied by a factor of five. Recently, former President Bush and President Barack Obama together awarded the 5,000th "Daily Point of Light" award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, an Iowa couple whose nonprofit organization has provided 232 million free meals to children all over the world.
On that occasion, Obama lauded Bush's leadership in the creation of the Points of Light Foundation that encourages volunteerism across the nation, crediting his efforts with spurring a wave of volunteerism that has resulted in 25 million more American volunteers today than when the first President Bush took office.
"Today we can say that our country is a better and a stronger force for good in the world because, more and more, we are a people that serve," President Obama said.
"And for that, we have to thank President Bush, and his better half, Barbara, who is just as committed as her husband to service, and has dedicated her life to it as well."
As he continued to pay tribute to Bush, the president also noted that "(i)n times of tight budgets and some very tough problems, we know that the greatest resource we have is the limitless energy and ingenuity of our citizens." He's absolutely right, and it's important that the nation be reminded of that. During difficult times, when facing divisive and troubling developments on the national and world stage, it's often too easy to overlook the overwhelming amount of good will and good works being generated every day by neighbors and friends.
It's also encouraging to see a Democratic president offer unqualified praise of his Republican predecessor. Points of light can be found in both parties, and the country is stronger when Americans are eager to find the good in those with whom they disagree. One can differ ideologically and still want what's best for the nation at large, and both Bush and Obama provide significant living examples of that principle.
We join with the president in applauding former President Bush's example, while at the same time acknowledging the thousands upon thousands of points of light who will never receive similar recognition, but who have nevertheless strengthened our nation by means of their dedicated service to others.