President George H. W. Bush made the call to public and community service a centerpiece of his presidency. At his inauguration in 1989, President Bush spoke of “all the individuals and community organizations spread like stars through the nation, doing good.” During his presidency, he laid the groundwork for a volunteer movement that has been built upon by every succeeding president.
In the first year of his presidency, President Bush founded the Points of Light Foundation (now known as Points of Light) to promote the spirit of volunteerism. He launched the modern volunteer service movement by signing the National and Community Service Act of 1990, the first piece of federal service legislation in almost 20 years.
President Bush created the Daily Point of Light Award to celebrate the power of individuals, alone and working together, to spark change and improve the world. By the end of his term, President Bush recognized 1,020 Daily Points of Light representing all 50 states and addressing issues ranging from care for infants and teenagers with AIDS to adult illiteracy, from gang violence to job training for the homeless. President Bush honored the 5,000th Daily Point of Light recipients with President Obama at the White House in 2013.
As president, Bush broke new ground with the Americans with Disabilities Act, giving tens of millions of people fuller access to the American Dream, and the Clean Air Act, landmark environmental legislation.
President Bush began his life of service by enlisting in the armed forces on his 18th birthday. He flew 58 combat missions before he was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. In addition to serving as the 41st president of the United States, he served as a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. envoy to China, director of the CIA and vice president.
George H. W. Bush was a volunteer leader long before he got involved in politics – starting the United Negro College Fund on the Yale campus; helping to launch the YMCA in Midland, Texas; and coaching an inner-city baseball team in Houston. When his young daughter Robin died, he and Mrs. Barbara Bush started the Bright Star Foundation to aid in leukemia research.
After he left office, President and Mrs. Bush raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research, supporting the MD Anderson Cancer Center and founding C-Change. President Bush continues to take an active role in The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and The Bush School of Government and Public Service, both located on the campus of Texas A&M University.
In the wake of disaster, President Bush has joined President Bill Clinton many times – in some of the greatest across-the aisle-moments in 20th century politics – to help those affected by hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. On February 15, 2011, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Obama.
In July 2013, President Bush joined members of his Secret Service detail in shaving his head to show his support for the 2-year-old son of a detail member being treated for leukemia, who started losing his hair.
President Bush has passed on his commitment to community service to his children and grandchildren, including Points of Light Board Chair Neil Bush. President and Mrs. Bush have five children, 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Their oldest son, George W., served as the 43rd president of the United States. Their son Jeb was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. The Bushes have been married since January 6, 1945, and reside in Houston and Kennebunkport, Maine.
Read George Herbert Walker Bush's official biography on the George Bush Presidential Library website.