1 Year After George H. W.'s Death, How the Bush Family Is Asking Others to Give Back
The family of George H. W. Bush is paying tribute to his altruism — and the organization that carries on that giving spirit still — on the one-year anniversary of his death.
The former 41st president died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94, just seven months after wife Barbara Bush died.
To honor President Bush’s “unrelenting service to others,” his daughter Dorothy Bush Koch, 60, and son Neil Bush, 64, are urging others to be a “point of light” in their own communities, just like their father had been.
The phrase was a signature of his administration, along with the thousand-plus commendations the president gave to individuals and organizations, and that work inspired the same-named foundation which Neil now chairs.
The elder Bush “left behind a legacy of unrelenting service to others, founded on the belief that people are the driving force for transformation in the world,” Neil and Koch shared in a statement to PEOPLE. “As we reach the first anniversary of his passing, we find ourselves in a time marked by divisiveness and partisanship, but also one full of hope.”
“Dad loved to honor those people who were catalysts in their communities, who inspired hope in others by defeating apathy with empathy,” they said. “It is through selfless actions, often in insurmountable situations, when we are most reminded of the strength of character and leadership which our father exhibited, but also admired.”
Koch and Neil continued: “In his honor, we ask and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to think of how they can be a point of light and inspiration in their own community and help transform the world into one in which no one sits on the sidelines.”
One of President Bush’s many acts of service included the creation of the Daily Points of the Light award, which gave rise to the Points of Light Foundation in 1990. The family still has close ties to the group: Granddaughter Lauren Bush Lauren has worked there alongside dad Neil.
Speaking with PEOPLE in September, they said they hoped the foundation would continue to promote some of the qualities President bush cherished most: selflessness and service.
“I think Points of Light as an organization speaks volumes about him and [how] he was always paying attention to the small guy,” said Lauren, 35, who was an awards co-chair at the first-ever George H. W. Bush Points of Light Awards Gala on Sept. 26.
“I hope what people take away from [the gala] is that it’s about him, but it’s also about the three people we’re honoring. I picture him sitting there saying, ‘Don’t make this just about me.’ “
“My dad has famously stated that you don’t have to be president, you don’t have to be governor or first lady to make a difference in the lives of others,” Neil said in September. “By lighting a fire and shining the light on the great works that individuals can do, small and large, is really the legacy that I think I’m most proud of about him.”
Though the eldest Bushes are both gone, their large family — including former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other lawmakers — continues the tradition of service with their own passion.
“A lot of our family and my generation has, on their own, chosen a path of service and not because anyone older said, ‘This is what’s expected. You’re a Bush and this is what we do,’ ” Lauren told PEOPLE. “Being close to individuals who’ve had such a massive impact like my grandparents, it empowers you to feel like, ‘Okay, well what can I do then?’”
Since President Bush’s passing, loved ones have shared a number of touching tributes on social media.
“What a gift that my girls got to know our Grampy,” granddaughter and Today show co-host Jenna Bus Hager wrote on Instagram in December 2018 alongside a slideshow of photos with the former president and her daughters.
“What an honor that we could name our Poppy after such a principled, humble, kind man who we all loved fiercely and who loved us back,” Hager wrote.
Last year, soon after his dad died, the younger President Bush posted an Instagram photo of his mother and father walking arm in arm.
“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” he wrote. ‘The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”