Former President George H. W. Bush posthumously honored his friend and mentor, President Ronald Reagan, with the 2011 George Bush Award For Excellence In Public Service. The award acknowledges an individual’s dedication to public service at the local, state, national or international level.
“He was a great man, a wonderful man, so it was a natural, ” Mr. Bush said in my exclusive interview.
Former Secretary of State, James Baker III, who served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations, accepted the award on behalf of the Reagan family.
“I’m honored to be asked to receive it, ” Baker told me. “It’s only fitting that President Bush would honor his predecessor in this way.”
Former Fist Lady Nancy Reagan could not attend the ceremony, but sent a letter to the Bush family that reads in part, “My husband had a strong faith in human potential and the greatness of America, and believed that giving something back to our community is one of the most important responsibilities we share as citizens, ” Reagan wrote. “He would have been humbled by your recognition of his own efforts. But I’m sure what would please him even more is to know that his own record of public service might inspire others to follow suit, so I hope this evening’s award presentation will help to encourage all Americans to answer the call to serve their communities and their country.”
President Bush says public service is a noble calling and encourages everyone to get involved.
“There could be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others, ” the President said. “Find something to do. Get off the bench. Don’t sit there whining, sucking your thumb, get in the game.”
Secretary Baker added, “I think you can do public service as private citizens.You can do at your PTA, you can do it at your church, you can do it in your community. The important thing is that you give back.”
President Reagan is the seventh recipient of this award. Past honorees include Former German Chancellor Helmet Kohl (2000), Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (2001), Senator Ted Kennedy (2003), Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (2004), Reverend Billy Graham (2006), and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2007).
While in office, President Bush instituted the points of light program, where a person who volunteered in his or her community was recognized for making the world a batter place. The tradition continues today through the Points of Light Institute.