All four living former presidents attend All Together Now on March 21 to show their support for service.
On Monday March 21, the Points of Light Institute hosted “All Together Now-A Celebration of Service” at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, DC. The black-tie gala honored George H. W. Bush for his lifelong commitment to service. Despite the star-studded list of performers including Garth Brooks, Cee-lo Green, Reba McIntyre, Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock, and Sheryl Crow, the true focal point of the night was the presence of all four living former presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Monday was the first time since Obama’s inauguration that all of the living former presidents gathered in one place. Obama was unable to attend because he was traveling in South America, but he filmed a video tribute.
Bush Sr. was honored for his historic contributions to the service community, both in his personal life and in the legislation he helped to pass while in office. While in office, Bush urged Americans to be a “thousand points of light” his speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Bush made it a recurring theme in speeches, including his inaugural, as a call for community organizations to do good work, according to Politico. This resulted in the creation of the Points of Life Institute, the host of Monday’s gala, which raised $30 million to help the organization support its cause.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush have become friends over the years
What many found most inspiring on Monday evening was not just the presence of four former presidents, but the bipartisan atmosphere. In today’s Washington, most issues are strictly divided across party lines, but the Points of Light gala made it clear that national service doesn’t have to be one of them. Bush Sr. echoed this sentiment in a statement he made on camera during the event, “You don’t have to be hostile in your opposition. I don’t think they need to be hateful about the people who disagree with you, and working with him I think we’ve established that. There can be no definition of successful life that does not include service to others.”
Since leaving office, Bush and Clinton have developed a surprising friendship, especially after helping with disaster relief efforts in South Asia and the Gulf. Of his former competitor Clinton now says “I literally came to love him. He can do virtually no wrong in my eyes.” Although both presidents disagreed on many issues, they have been able to come together in support for the power and impact of service.
With the current threat to funding for national service, “All Together Now-Celebration of Service”should remind us not only of the importance of these programs but also of their history of bipartisan support.
Be sure to watch “All Together Now-A Celebration of Service” on NBC Monday March 28 from 8-9 PM EST.