Volunteer service brought together Democrats and Republicans on
Monday, as President Obama honored predecessor George H.W. Bush and
helped him award the 5,000th "Daily Point of Light."
The Points of
Light program and similar projects have inspired millions to serve, and
"today we can say that our country is a better and stronger force for
good in the world," Obama said in a White House ceremony for the
ex-president and former first lady Barbara Bush.
Citing a phrase
Bush used in accepting the 1988 Republican presidential nomination,
Obama said, "We are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you
and we can't thank you enough."
Bush, 89 and in a wheelchair,
thanked the president for his "wonderful hospitality" and added: "It's
like coming home for Barbara and me."
While paying tribute to
Points of Light -- a term that also comes from Bush's '88 convention
speech -- Obama announced creation of a new federal task force to "look
at how we can better support national service." Priorities include
"improving schools, recovering from disasters and mentoring our kids,"
Obama told his predecessor he has been personally inspired by Bush's "passion" and "commitment" to volunteer service.
have helped so many Americans discover that they, too, have something
to contribute," Obama said. "That they, too, have the power to make a
In addition to Barbara Bush, son Neil Bush --
chairman of Points of Light -- also attended the East Room event. Former
President George W. Bush -- who met briefly with Obama less than two
weeks ago in Africa -- was not there.
The Points of Light program
includes some 4 million volunteers doing 30 million hours of service
through affiliates in about 250 cities, as well as thousands of
nonprofit corporations and businesses.
The 5,000th Daily Point of
Light awarded by the two presidents went to Floyd Hammer and Kathy
Hamilton, a retired couple and farm owners from Iowa. They founded a
non-profit that provides food, water, medical care and education in more
than 15 countries, including the United States.
Hamilton said in
an interview that she talked with first lady Michelle Obama about a
program to package healthy meals for children in Washington, D.C.
with the presidents was an amazing experience, Hamilton said: "When you
meet them, they're just like people -- just like us."
praised the Points of Light program, saying "it definitely changed our
lives, and it will continue to change many people's lives."
the ceremony, Obama lauded Bush for not only starting Points of Light,
but for maintaining the daily awards in the more than two decades since.
he left the White House, he kept going and going and going," Obama
said. "In between skydiving and other activities, he kept going."
Neil Bush said his father is no longer sky diving, but has taken up a
new hobby: wearing brightly colored socks. For the White House event,
the nation's 41st president sported a Dr. Seuss-like style of footwear,
with white and red stripes.
"He's trying to be a style setter," Neil Bush said. "GQ Man, we're calling him, instead of 41."