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Dressed in a stunning, apricot-colored evening gown, Carrie paused to sign autographs and chat with fans before facing the glare of hundreds of photographers' lights on the red carpet, where she was joined by some of her fellow musical icons, along with major political figures and the Washington elite -- all gathered for the Points of Light Foundation tribute show honoring the tireless volunteerism of former president George H.W. Bush.
"The smallest thing can make a big difference," she told the crowd a bit later from the stage, after relating a story about a boy's efforts to rescue a sea creature."The world is changed one starfish at a time."
Although the show -- officially titled 'All Together Now: A Celebration of Service' -- was centered around a reunion of living presidents -- Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Points of Light creator and the night's honoree George H.W. Bush -- it was Carrie, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Cee Lo Green, Miranda Cosgrove, and the other musical performers that were seemingly the largest draw. President Barack Obama was traveling but taped a video message played during the event.
Although some celebrities did not stop for fans or press, Garth took his time answering questions and warmly greeting fans, press and event staff. Although coordinators tried to hustle the country legend to the backstage area, he stopped time and again to shake hands, chat and pose for photographs.
"In these days, we have to remember we are all important," Garth said as he slowly made his way toward the stage door. "That's why just one volunteer can make a difference."
Once inside the theater, politicians, their families, a host of volunteers and celebrities were so busy chatting that they had to be reminded several times to take their seats so the show could begin. Once it did, the crowd cheered long and loud for the performers, featured volunteers, and other speakers.
Kid Rock opened the show with 'Born Free.' Carrie performed jaw-dropping renditions of 'Reach Out and Touch' and 'Instant Karma,' while Brad sang 'Try a Little Kindness.' Cee-Lo Green teamed with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame) to sing 'Soul Man.' And Garth closed the almost two hour show with a powerful rendition of 'Lean on Me,' after a heartfelt performance of 'America the Beautiful.'
Both on stage and off, performers clearly wanted to keep their focus on the Points of Light honoree, George H.W. Bush.
"I love him," Garth told reporters when asked for his thoughts about the former president, noting his kindness and generosity. "He's always been there for me ... He understands that volunteers are important."
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Although parts of the evening were sentimental, Reba kept the tone light and happy as she joshed with the audience at various points.
"It's OK. I know you've all been sneaking looks at your emails," she said from the stage. "It's time to turn off your Blackberrys and start volunteering."
Darius Rucker, who performed 'Stand By Me,' told those on the red carpet that he was glad to see the politicians put aside any ideological differences to promote volunteerism which is, he insists, "what America is all about."
Indeed, many seemed a bit taken aback by the warm words that Bill Clinton offered from the stage to both George W. Bush and his father.
"This man whom I'd always liked and respected and then ran against in a painful campaign in some ways, I literally came to love," said the Democrat of his Republican predecessor. "I realized all over again how much energy we waste fighting with each other over things that don't matter. When there are things that do matter, disagreements are healthy. But nobody's right all the time, and nobody's wrong all the time."
'All Together Now: A Celebration of Service' is scheduled to air on NBC at 8:00PM ET on March 28.
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