Our nation is deeply divided on many issues. But regardless of political ideologies, all Americans should — and most do — share profound respect for folks who volunteer to help those in need.
And since President George H.W. Bush launched the Points of Light program in 1989, the number of U.S. volunteers has risen by 25 million.
President Barack Obama rightly hailed that winning statistic Monday at the White House while honoring the first President Bush for helping to re-ignite our country’s essential volunteer spirit.
The two presidents also teamed up to present the 5,000th Points of Light award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union, Iowa.
One decade ago, that farming couple was all set for retirement — and world travel. But when they saw the heart-wrenching plight of diseased and starving children in Tanzania, they founded a nonprofit, Outreach, to feed the hungry. They have done just that on an immense scale by delivering more than 233 million meals in more than 15 countries, including ours.
President Obama said Monday: “They’ve gone to see many of the kids that they met in Tanzania grow up healthy and strong. And this work, they say, is the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done.”
That “rewarding” feeling is a familiar refrain from volunteers. And you don’t have to provide millions of meals or win a Points of Light award to make a positive difference — for others and yourself.
President Bush deserves credit for helping spread that uplifting message with his Points of Light.
As President Obama pointed out, since those awards were initiated nearly a quarter century ago: “Service is up across age groups and across regions. It’s now a graduation requirement in many high schools and colleges. It’s embedded in the culture of businesses large and small.”
And: “The presidents who followed President Bush have had the good sense to continue this work — and not just because one of them calls him ‘Dad.’ Even after leaving office, President Clinton and both President Bushes have come together to help people affected by natural disasters here at home and around the world — a reminder that service is not a Democratic or a Republican value, but it’s a core part of being an American.”
So good for President Obama and the White House predecessor he graciously honored on Monday.
And good for the millions of Americans who keep shining the inspiring light of volunteer service.