Points Of Light Celebration

Points of Light 25th anniversary celebration includes Guinness Book of World Records attempt

Points of Light conference includes Guinness Book of World Records bid

Chairman of Points of Light Neil Bush (C) shakes hands with his father, former US President George H.W. Bush, while attending a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program July 15, 2013
Neil Bush, left, shakes hands with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at the White House in 2013 during a ceremony honoring the Points of Light volunteer program. Photo by © Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi head shot
Nancy Pelosi will be among those from both sides of the political spectrum to attend the 25th anniversary Points of Life conference. Photo by Lauren Victoria Burke
Points of Light conference, book Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.
Volunteers will fan out across Houston, reading the Farmer Will Allen book to children in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records. Courtesy photo
Joel Osteen smiling with white background head shot
Joel Osteen is among the notables who will take part in the conference. WGNMagazine
Al Roker
NBC's Al Roker and his wife, ABC's Deborah Roberts, will emcee the 25th Anniversary Points of Light Tribute in Houston at the Wortham Center during the conference. Courtesy photo
George R. Brown Convention Center at night May 2013
The Points of Light conference will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center October 19-21. George R. Brown Convention Center/Facebook
Chairman of Points of Light Neil Bush (C) shakes hands with his father, former US President George H.W. Bush, while attending a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program July 15, 2013
Nancy Pelosi head shot
Points of Light conference, book Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.
Joel Osteen smiling with white background head shot
Al Roker
George R. Brown Convention Center at night May 2013

After a fall at his home earlier this summer, George H.W. Bush may be down, but he's not out.

The former president is recovering well, says his son, Neil Bush, with two goals in mind: To see the outcome of the presidential campaign, where middle son Jeb Bush is a candidate for the Republican nomination, and to take part in the big 25th anniversary celebration of one of his signature accomplishments: The Points of Light volunteer program.

A gigantic conference is planned October 19-21 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, with more than 5,000 leaders from across the nation and around the world, along with speakers from business, entertainment and both sides of the political aisle. Among the highlights of the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service: A plan to enlist thousands of volunteers to break the Guinness Book of World Records listing for the number of children being read to in a 24-hour period as part of the "Read Across the Globe" initiative.

 "Since he started Points of Light, there have been 36 million Americans serving, now over 65 million Americans served, so it's really proving to be true we can put aside our differences and come together to help others," Neil Bush said. 

The record is 238,620 and officials are aiming to go past the 300,000 mark with 10,000 volunteers fanning out to Houston area schools and day care centers during the conference to read aloud the children's book, Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table. Even astronaut Scott Kelly plans to read the book aloud from outer space, although he won't be counted in the tally since he won't be in a classroom.

Neil Bush, chairman of the Points of Light Foundation, and Brad Deutser, president & CEO of the Houston consulting firm, Deutser, outlined details of the conference at a Thursday morning meeting with top Houston media executives and officials. Both stressed that the event is strictly non-partisan, with participants to include House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Lakewood pastor Joel Osteen, Girl Scouts of America CEO Anna Maria Chavez and UPS CEO David Abney. Also, George H.W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, plan to attend.

"My father has been able to attract a very broad, very diverse group of people in politics and outside of politics to come together around this national service movement. Since he started Points of Light, there have been 36 million Americans serving, now over 65 million Americans served, so it's really proving to be true we can put aside our differences and come together to help others," Neil Bush said.

The conference, the largest of its kind to attract non-profit, government, business and civic leaders, is aimed at coming up with new and innovative ideas in the areas of volunteering and spearheading lasting change. It will include more than 80 workshops and conference tracks in areas of business, education, youth leadership, economic opportunity and national service. Registration costs start at $250 and discounts apply for those who sign up for at least one four-hour voluntary shift during the conference. For information, go to www.volunteeringandservice.org.

Sunday Supper kickoff

The conference will kick off on October 18 with a Welcome to Texas celebration, including a Sunday Supper, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham (Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power) and a Prayer for Peace service at St. Martin's Episcopal Church.  On October 20, a Faith Day will be held to discuss the most productive ways to enlist churches, synagogues and mosques in volunteer programs.

Organizers are also seeking Houston volunteers to help with the reading program on October 19 and other activities. To volunteer, go to contact4literacy.org beginning on August 21.

The elder Bush will be honored at a tribute at the Wortham Center on October 20. NBC’s Al Roker and ABC’s Deborah Roberts will emcee the event, with entertainment  by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and others.

"We're just hoping to mobilize an army of volunteers to help with community issues all over the country."

The conference has been held in such cities as New York and Washington, D.C., but it has never been held in Houston until now. "It's the 25th anniversary of Points of  Light, and it seems kind of ridiculous that we haven't had a conference in Houston up until now," Bush said. "But what better place to do it than in the backyard of our founder since he's still able to enjoy it and to be celebrated."

Asked how his father is doing, Neil Bush repeated the line that the elder Bush tweeted after his fall. "He can jump out of an airplane for his 90th birthday but he can't roll of bed without breaking a bone in his neck," he said.

"He's actually recovered very quickly, more quickly than doctors anticipated. He wears a neck brace, which is uncomfortable for him. But he's got the best attitude for life. He's a uniquely loving, caring, compassionate human being. I think he's motivated to see how the presidential campaign turns out, so his recovery speed is faster than the average human being, because he wants to see what's going on."

Neil Bush added that the conference is a great opportunity for leaders to share best practices "to continue to inspire, equip and mobilize more volunteers to serve in more communities."

"Literacy is one of the most important causes. If you don't have it you can't possibly realize your God-given potential. Houston suffers from a crisis of literacy across the age spectrum. I'm hoping through our 'Read Across the Globe' initiative, we can attract more volunteers to focus their time and energy on literacy, specifically as the first step of getting people out poverty.

"We're just hoping to mobilize an army of volunteers to help with community issues all over the country."