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A Commitment to Service

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It is not unusual for children to follow the paths cut by their parents. You frequently see the children of doctors enter medicine, military members' children enlist. In my family, we witnessed different forms of public and community service.

My dad's career in politics, along with that of my grandfather, Prescott Bush, taught us that good people motivated by helping others can jump into the political fray and make a positive difference.

But my grandparents and parents were also great role models for volunteering. My grandmother, Dorothy Walker Bush, worked long, hard hours for the Red Cross during World War II because it was the right thing to do for her community. The example of his parents established my father's belief that every human has the capacity to serve their fellow man. As a businessman, he worked with inner city youth and supported local initiatives targeting the less fortunate. I have clear memories of my mother volunteering in the local hospital and she has made a lifelong commitment to improving literacy.

After being given a bully pulpit, Dad promoted volunteerism as a cornerstone of his administration by challenging Americans to become a point of light -- working to solve community problems where government alone can't. "Any definition of a successful life must include service to others."

Dad understood service's power to bridge the divides that separate us. Over and over, we see diverse communities come together to solve the problems that affect them all. Political rivals can even agree on important legislation like the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that brought Congress together to expand our national service programs because they understand the value volunteerism brings.

The example set by my grandparents and parents -- that of giving one's time, talent, voice and resources, either from one's own home or from the highest office in the land -- had a profound effect on me and my siblings. All of us, and now our children, have adopted causes we believe in. My family believes in getting our hands dirty by participating in beach cleanups and school renovations, and in helping create new avenues for citizens to get involved through organizations like Points of Light and the Salvation Army.

What has been most exciting to see is our next generation's commitment to service. My daughter Lauren's FEED Project has helped serve more than 60 million school meals through the UN World Food Program. My son, Pierce, is a Big Brother to a boy in inner city Houston; my daughter, Ashley, just graduated from college and is pursing women's empowerment projects.

As chairman of the Points of Light Board, it has been exciting to see the number of volunteers in the U.S. grow from 25 million in 1990 to more than 60 million serving today. Just as volunteering and service has become a part of the Bush family culture, so too is it possible to imagine a nation where our next generation learns from the one before and multiple generations of families come together to help others. Where volunteering becomes an even more embedded and unique part of the American culture that can spread to all continents on Earth.

Neil Bush is chairman of the board for Points of Light.