Thousand points of light
The term was first used by Bush in his speech accepting the presidential nomination at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. Written for Bush by Peggy Noonan and Craig R. Smith, 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.
A 1991 article in The New York Times noted that the phrase had inspired "a host of caustic political satires, including cartoons of devastated communities as 'a thousand points of blight.'"
The phrase was previously found in C.S. Lewis's 1955 novel The Magician's Nephew, in which Lewis wrote: "One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out."
Points of Light organization and awards
During his presidency Bush handed out "Point of Light Awards" six days a week to citizens working to aid their communities through volunteer work.
In 1990 Bush spearheaded the creation of the Points of Light Foundation, the goal of which was to promote private, non-governmental solutions to social issues.
The foundation was criticized in a 1995 investigation by The Los Angeles Times for spending only 11% of its budget on grants to volunteer organizations, while spending $22.3 million on "promotions, consultants, salaries, travel and conferences," including "$5.5 million to produce a television advertising campaign and $1.4 million for a celebration of community service." The Times also noted that the foundation received more than half its budget from federal funds.
The foundation's name changed periodically, but following a merger in 2007 with the Atlanta-based HandsOn Network, the conjoined organization came to be called simply Points of Light. The organization now has headquarters in Atlanta, Washington and New York, and bills itself "the world's leading volunteer organization." Bush now serves as honorary chairman of the board; his son Neil Bush serves as the board's president.
Points of Light has approximately 250 affiliates in 22 countries and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and companies dedicated to volunteer service around the world. In 2012, Points of Light mobilized 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service worth $635 million.
"Point of Light" is the title of a song co-written by Don Schlitz and Thom Schuyler and recorded by country music artist Randy Travis, which deals with the contributions of volunteers. It was the lead single from his album High Lonesome. Travis donated proceeds from the song to the Points of Light Foundation.
We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
And as the planes blacken the sky
It sounds like heaven is fallin'.
You promised me a new day a-dawnin'.
I've seen a thousand points of light,
Like so many points of hatred, shame, and horror.
Todd Snider referenced this phrase in the 1994 song "My Generation Part 2":
We'll buy anything from Diet Sprite
To One Thousand Points of Light
The title of the 21 Jump Street episode "Blinded by the Thousand Points of Light" is also a mocking reference to the Bush, who had recently assumed the presidency when the episode aired.
Don Was from Was (Not Was), under the satirical alias A Thousand Points Of Night, recorded a dance track 'Read My Lips' in 1992, which used several sound bites from throughout Bush's presidential career. It was released to coincide with the 1992 Presidential election campaign.
- The Los Angeles Times (January 9, 1995). ""Bush's Points of Light found a little dim"". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Bush, George (August 18, 1988). ""Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans"". The American Presidency Project. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Bartleby.com. George Bush Inaugural Address. Friday, January 20, 1989.
- DeParle, Jason (May 29, 1991). ""'Thousand Points' as a Cottage Industry"". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Gerstenzang, James (October 1, 1991). ""Bush, Mickey Mouse Praise Points of Light Program"". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Points of Light Overview." March 2012. .
- "Points of Light 2012 Year in Review". Points of Light. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives. Rockin' In The Free World.