Be the Light
“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.” President George Herbert Walker Bush recited those words in his 1989 Inaugural Address after having been sworn in as the 41st President of the United States of America.
In 1987 community advocates found New York Cares. In 1989 President George H. W. Bush’s inaugural address invoked the vision of a “thousand points of light,” and invited the nation to take action through service to their fellow citizens. President Bush established the Daily Point of Light Award for individuals making a difference in 1990. During his administration, President Bush formally recognized more than 1,000 volunteers as “points of light.” He advocated that “points of light” demonstrated how “a neighbor can help a neighbor.” This award is now administered by the Points of Light non-profit organization. This organization, in response to President Bush’s call to action, was created as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service. This nonprofit has extended President Bush’s vision and his understanding that “what government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no limits.”
In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act, which initiated the founding of AmeriCorps, a national service program that engaged Americans in voluntary action to address the country’s most critical issues. In 1997 former and sitting Presidents united to challenge the nation to think anew at The Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future. Presidents Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and first lady Nancy Reagan convened to discuss the nation’s pressing social issues and discuss about their role in meeting the needs of the country and world through voluntary action.
In 2001 the United Nations proclaimed the Year of the Volunteer. The Points of Light Foundation joined nearly 1,000 national and international partners participating in the year of service and engaged its large network of individuals, groups and corporate partners in service to others. President George W. Bush creates USA Freedom Corps in his 2002 State of the Union address to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice and generosity that followed Sept. 11, 2001.
ServiceNation, an unprecedented coalition of service and volunteer leadership to inspire a new era of voluntary citizen service in America, was launched in 2008. Points of Light joined organizing committee members including Be the Change Inc., City Year and Civic Enterprises. The next year in 2009 President Barack Obama signed the historic Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act heralding in the next phase of the nation’s renewed call to service. That same year President Obama announced the United We Serve campaign to engage more Americans in service. Members of President Obama’s administration participated in service projects and advocate service as a solution to our nation’s most pressing issues.
Also in 2009 the Points of Light organization hosted the Presidential Forum on Service, uniting President Obama and President George H. W. Bush. The forum recognized the 20th anniversary of President Bush’s invocation of a thousand points of light and celebrated the volunteer sector’s tremendous gains during the past two decades under Points of Light’s leadership.
As we say our final goodbye to President George H W Bush as he is interred at his Presidential Library in Texas, we must work to make sure that his vision continues. “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.” This is how everyday miracles are created and followed through each day. One person can make a difference by being a point of light.