The George Herbert Walker Bush remembrances – Redux.

“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 H. W. Bush

It’s the Presidents Day weekend. Let’s start with a bit of unfinished business – the fourth and last of the series of LOTRW posts to mark the passing of our 41stpresident. The third of these posts, from back in January (! An eternity in blogosphere years), focused on George Bush and the vision thing. It was intended to tee up a post on his “thousand points of light.”

John Plodinec saw it coming. In fact, within hours, he had stolen my speech, writing this in a comment:

And yet, Bush the Elder delivered perhaps the most visionary political speech of my lifetime – the Thousand Points of Life speech. In this speech, he anticipated much of what social scientists are now telling us is important and is needed to break the partisan impasse – collaboration, men [sic] of good will reasoning together humbly recognizing that no one has a monopoly on the truth.

(Well said! All that was needed was to build on John’s insight. But it didn’t happen until now. Sigh. Could give excuses – but let’s just dive in.)


Some background, excerpted from Wikipedia: 

The term was used by George H.W. Bush in his speech accepting the presidential nomination at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. …(The) address likened America’s clubs and volunteer organizations to “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

Bush reprised the phrase near the end of his speech, affirming that he would “keep America moving forward, always forward—for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light.”

He repeated the phrase in his inaugural address on January 20, 1989:

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.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the cynical times we live in – and the trending escalation in that cynicism – the idea was belittled by some back then, and has even since been mocked by the current president.  But fact is, it’s a success story. President Bush followed through. His vision became The Points of Light Foundation in 1990, and continues to the present as Points of Light:

Points of Light has approximately 90 corporate service council members, and that’s before counting partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and companies, and affiliates in other countries. They mobilize some five million people annually in 20 million hours of service worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Hmm. Not bad for a guy who had trouble with the “vision thing.” We should all be so myopic.


Community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good?” Calls to mind the American Meteorological Society, and especially AMS Chapters. That’s the intended subject of a follow-on post (hopefully less than a month away, this time).

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