Remembering George H.W. Bush
Statement from CEO Barbara Stewart
President George H.W. Bush often said that, “Any definition of a successful life includes service to others,” and he lived out those words to the fullest. From enlisting in the Navy at age 18, to serving as a decorated World War II naval pilot, as ambassador to China and the United Nations, as CIA director, vice president, and the nation’s 41st president, he devoted his entire life to public service.
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One of President Bush’s most enduring contributions was to national service and volunteering. From his first day in office, President Bush advanced citizen service as a way to address our nation’s challenges. By launching the Points of Light movement and signing the 1990 National Service Act, he ushered in the modern era of national service, setting the stage for the creation of AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which I am honored to lead today.
President Bush understood that service is an enduring American value, that our nation is stronger when people serve, and that service is the hallmark of a successful life. He recognized the vital role of service in improving our social and economic well-being and expanded opportunities for Americans to serve.
As the federal agency for service and volunteering, we are grateful for President Bush’s leadership and contributions, and honored to carry his legacy forward by engaging millions of Americans in serving their communities through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other programs.
The national service and volunteering community will deeply miss President Bush, but will always be inspired by his love of country, his commitment to service, and his tireless spirit of compassion and generosity. I have no doubt that President Bush would want us to honor his legacy by engaging in service to others and to our great country. As we celebrate his extraordinary life, let us honor him not just with our words, but with acts of service to improve the lives of others.
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History and Timeline
More than 25 years ago, President George H.W. Bush gave voice and direction to a movement that has steadily grown ever since – changing countless lives, and building stronger, more resilient communities across this country and around the world. His famous “thousand points of light” speech renewed America’s spirit of volunteerism and galvanized the modern national service movement.
In his 1989 inaugural address, President Bush inspired Americans to do good, speaking of “a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation.” In response to this call to action, the Points of Light Foundation is created as an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit organization to encourage service.
President George H.W. Bush creates the Office of National Service, planting the seeds for what would become the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Signed by President Bush, the National and Community Service Act of 1990, created the Commission on National and Community Service, which supported demonstration projects and new streams of service.
President Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act, creating the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America.
President Clinton, President Bush, President Jimmy Carter, President Gerald Ford and First Lady Nancy Reagan attended The Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, an event focused on mobilizing Americans’ citizen power in an effort to solve the nation’s problems through voluntary action.
President George W. Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President’s Volunteer Service Award, administered by Points of Light, as a way to thank and honor Americans who take voluntary action in their communities.
President Barack Obama signed the historic Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, heralding the next phase in voluntary action. With President Obama’s “United We Serve” initiative and Serve.gov, a technology powered by Points of Light’s All For Good platform that connects volunteers to projects, his administration inspired a renewal of President George H. W. Bush’s call to service two decades earlier.
Points of Light hosted the Presidential Forum on Service, uniting President Obama and President George H. W. Bush, and recognizing the 20th anniversary of President Bush’s invocation of a thousand points of light.
Points of Light hosted “All Together Now: A Celebration of Service,” a historic, nationally televised event at the Kennedy Center celebrating the leadership of President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush in advancing the modern-day service movement. President Bill Clinton served as honorary chairman of the event, attending the program with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, demonstrating the strong bipartisan heritage of the service movement. President Barack Obama paid tribute in a video message.
President George H.W. Bush joins Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps by hosting a special swearing-in ceremony for new AmeriCorps members in Kennebunkport.