Two decades after his failure to project what he sneeringly called "the vision thing" helped drive him from office, President George H.W. Bush on Monday returned in triumph to the White House. In an irony he never could have anticipated, the printed program — bearing the seal of the president — proclaimed that President Obama had called the event a "celebration of ... the vision of President George H.W. Bush."
After all the years of complaining about vision questions and all the times Bush resisted even admitting he had a vision, here was a Democratic successor summoning Bush's family and many of those who served him here back to the White House to hail that elusive vision.
The occasion was the presentation of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light, an award that grew out of Bush's acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. Perhaps the most important speech of that campaign, the then-vice president used it to delineate himself from Ronald Reagan.
"I want a kinder, gentler nation," he declared, adding, "We are a nation of communities, of thousands, and tens of thousands, of ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional, and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique ... a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."