Former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once fierce rivals, retired from political life close friends and correspondents. Next week in Washington, nearly 200 years later, that same rivalry-turned-friendship will be on display as former President Bill Clinton hosts an event to honor the man he beat to take the White House in 1992.
In his inaugural address in 1989, President George H.W. Bush said, “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.”
More than two decades later, those words have been immortalized in the Points of Light Institute, which will host a “star-studded event” on March 21 to celebrate the life and achievements of the 41st president.
“Born out of my father’s 1989 inaugural address where he spoke of the power of ‘Points of Light’, Points of Light Institute was launched in 1990 to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world,” said Neil Bush, chairman of the board for the institute and the fourth of President Bush’s six children.
“The Tribute event will not only honor President Bush and the steps that he took during his presidency and post-presidency, but also honor the role that voluntary service plays in the American experience,” he added.
But it’s not every day a former Democratic president agrees to headline an event for a former Republican president, much less one he campaigned against and beat.
“It was a pretty hard-fought campaign,” Dee Dee Myers, Clinton’s first press secretary, told The Daily Caller. “It’s not easy to beat an incumbent president, and it’s not easy to lose as an incumbent president.”
“Their relationship was not a friendly one during the campaign,” Myers added.
After the campaign, however, things changed. According to Myers, the turning point in their relationship came in the fall of 1993. “Bush…came to the White House to do an event for NAFTA and help President Clinton with his agenda,” Myers told TheDC.
“And I think Clinton was impressed by that. He didn’t have to do that.”
Though the two men saw each other several times throughout the following years, Myers said she really noticed a change in the friendship at the dedication of the World War II memorial in 2004. “They’re up there on stage and Clinton said something and Bush grabbed his shoulders…they both started laughing,” said Myers.
Since then, Clinton and Bush have teamed up to lead the U.S. response efforts to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and to Hurricane Katrina.
According to Myers, “that’s why President Clinton said yes so quickly,” when asked if he would co-chair the event next week.
The Points of Light event will take place at the Kennedy Center, and will be the first time all living presidents – Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, along with Clinton and George H.W Bush – will appear together publicly.
The event is also set to be broadcast on NBC on March 28.