In a rare moment of country before party, Democratic President Barack Obama joined former Republican President George H.W. Bush Sr. on the campus of A&M University in College Station, Texas recently to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Bush's Points of Light non-profit organization.
The non-profit was founded when Bush was president to promote the concept of volunteerism as a means of solving many of the problems facing communities across the nation. At the time, Bush called for "a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard."
In his address, President Obama paid homage to the Points of Light organization, and to the former president whose life, he said, has been the embodiment of service.
"He easily could have chosen a life of comfort and privilege," said the president, "and instead, time and again, when offered a chance to serve, he seized it. It was second nature to him – the continuation of a proud family tradition that he and Mrs. Bush clearly passed on to their children and grandchildren."
The former president, whose son's administration Obama hammered against relentlessly in his bid for the Democratic nomination and the presidency, invited President Obama to speak at the event.
A true patriot and elder statesman, this was not the first time former President Bush has placed country before party. In 2005, he teamed up with former President Bill Clinton, the man who snatched the White House from him, to raise money and awareness on behalf of victims of the tsunami in Asia, and again after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans and other regions of the Gulf Coast.
In his speech, President Obama called upon every American to strive for the same love of country that has allowed the two former presidents to "forget old rivalries, and embrace a common purpose that is bigger than our differences."
Extolling the virtues of service, the president told his audience, "Service binds us to each other, and to our communities and our country in a way that nothing else can." Having worked as a community organizer in Chicago before running for elective office, Obama knows first hand the challenges - and the rewards - of service.
The president commended America's youth for being the "most engaged, service-minded generation since the 1930's and 40's." He encouraged young people to remain vigilant, and to continue their efforts towards making a difference in the lives of others.
"You don't have to devote your entire career to service," he said, "…but I'm asking you to have a public service mindset. No matter where you live, or what job you do, or what obstacles you face, always look for ways to make service a part of your life."
President Obama's appearance at the Points of Light commemoration with former President Bush was an exceptional moment of patriotism over politics, and should serve as an example of the bipartisan manner with which our leaders ought to regularly conduct themselves.