A Reflection on Volunteering and the True Humanitarian Spirit

Jul 7, 2020

As communities around the world continue to navigate and balance stay-at-home orders, we watch as our neighborhoods try to maintain themselves during these despairing times. I wonder what can I do? My thoughts turn to my dad and what advice he would give. I think the answer can be found in something he said when he started Points of Light from the White House 30 years ago, “We all have something to give. So, if you know how to read, find someone who can’t. If you’ve got a hammer, find a nail. If you’re not hungry, not lonely, not in trouble—seek out someone who is.”

Volunteering, donating, and the power of people are tried and true responses in times of disaster. And the problems we face now during the COVID-19 global pandemic have similarities to those we’ve faced during past crises but bring new challenges to the proven methods of response we rely on. What we are seeing, however, is that we are still acting – finding new ways to work together while apart and support each other during this crisis. I know my dad wouldn’t be surprised at the power of the human spirit to shine light in this time of darkness.

Currently, our country is facing another disease, a sickness caused by racial inequity, social injustice, and systemic racism, which have been around since the birth of this nation. And today, people are no longer remaining silent. We are seeing individuals, corporations, nonprofits, and countries participate in what is being considered the largest civil rights movement in the world. Volunteers far and wide are joining the movement by supporting programs and initiatives that aim to resolve social unrest, that seek to address our nation’s most pressing problems.

These two catastrophes, and many more, are stark examples of why dad took office as President of the United States. My father’s mission in life was to serve and to inspire others to act – leading by example. During his inaugural speech, he invoked the vision of a “thousand points of light,” and invited everyday people, like you and me, to take action through service of our fellow citizen. This was the foundation for what would become one of his greatest accomplishments.

In 1990, dad founded Points of Light, to encourage and empower the spirit of service. Today, dad’s legacy has global reach. Points of Light mobilizes millions of people through our Points of Light Global Network in 37 countries. And the Daily Point of Light Award program he started from the White House continues on to this day, recognizing everyday people who take extraordinary action. The program has expanded, and now also runs in the United Kingdom through the Prime Minister’s office and the Queen of England honors people globally with the Commonwealth Points of Light award.

This year, as Points of Light celebrates its 30th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on all of the work that has been done, as well as all the ways in which the world has changed since its founding. And now, as we try to imagine a more inclusive world post-pandemic, we will see more change but what remains is the power of people. The ways people truly come together, support each other and their communities, and prove that we’re stronger together.

At Points of Light, we believe we’re on the dawn of a new era that we are calling the civic century, an age when people are the driving force that transforms our world. I believe when future generations look back on this time they will see it was an era of sustained, meaningful civic engagement, fueled by a global community of people ready and willing to do good.

It will take all of us, united in action, for this new century to take root. Our unity will write the next chapter in the history of civic engagement. With your gifts of time through service, your voice through advocacy and your financial support, you will ensure Dad’s evolving legacy continues to uplift thousands of individuals and organizations around the world. Please consider making a gift today to further our shared actions and passions, which will make Points of Light’s work even more brilliant for the next 30 years.

Neil Bush, Board Chair, Points of Light
Neil Bush is the board chair of Points of Light. He is an international business man who has lead a life committed to service, expanding on his father’s vision of inspiring, equipping and mobilizing people to make positive change.

Neil Bush