Former Presidents Gather to Honor Bush 41

A star-studded group gathered last night at the Kennedy Center for the Points of Light Institute’s tribute to President George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush and their dedication to volunteerism.

Presidents Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, George W. Bush and his wife Laura, and Bill Clinton (he went stag) came together for the first time since President Obama’s inauguration. Sitting with the presidents were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Neil Bush, Chairman of the Board of Points of Light, and many more members of the Bush family, grandchildren included. Mitt Romney, a GOP hopeful for his party’s nomination in 2012, sat just a few rows in front of the presidents with his wife Ann, probably wondering what it’d be like to be sitting among them…wishing, praying that some day, he’d be there. Also in the audience were Bush 43 Chief of Staff Andy Card, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, Bush 41 Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Between performances from Kid Rock, Cee Lo Green, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, and Brad Paisley (among others), each president took the stage to tell a story of incredible volunteer work done by ordinary people. Clinton, off teleprompter as he often is, had high praise for H.W., going so far as to say he “literally fell in love” with Bush 41 on one of the duo’s many service trips abroad. Clinton called Bush and himself “the odd couple,” though Barbara Bush later took credit for coining that phrase in a pre-packaged video segment.

Though attempts at humor came from Reba McEntire and 17-year-old “iCarly” actress Miranda Cosgrove, CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz stole the show. Nantz, a friend of the Bush family, joked about being forced to announce that the event would be telecast on rival network NBC before reminding everyone that CBS still had the NCAA tournament.

Before Garth Brooks closed the show with his rendition of “Lean On Me,” Bush 41, in a wheelchair and unable to make it on stage, briefly addressed a crowd to a standing ovation.

The Points of Light Institute, which takes its name from a phrase coined by Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan to encourage dedication to service, raised $30 million.

The program will be broadcast on NBC Monday night, March 28, at 8 p.m.