October 16th, 2009
07:24 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama, Bush turn bipartisan focus to volunteerism

(CNN) – President Barack Obama attended a community service forum at Texas A&M University on Friday hosted by one of his Republican predecessors, former President George H.W. Bush.

Obama took the opportunity to emphasize that, regardless of partisan politics, the government can only do so much with the challenges facing Americans.

"We face threats to our health, our climate and, of course, our security that have left many of our young people wondering what kind of future they will be leaving for their own kids," Obama told the audience, which including the former president and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. "Anyone here thinks that our government always has the solutions, President Bush and I will be the first to tell you that you'll be sorely disappointed."

"The government can build the best school, with the best teachers, but we can't run the PTA ... we can pass the most comprehensive health care reform bill, but Congress can't be on the ground in our communities caring for the sick and helping people lead healthy lives."

The two leaders met at Bush's presidential library to celebrate almost two decades of work from the Points of Light Institute, which was founded with Bush's encouragement in 1990 to "encourage and empower the spirit of service," according to the group's Web site.

The Institute takes its name from Bush's 1989 inaugural address, where he referenced "a thousand points of light ... all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good."

Obama lauded the former president's lifetime of service - from his enlistment at 18 to his community work during retirement - noting that Bush was the first president to create a White House office devoted to promoting volunteer work. The president said Bush's legacy of service affected the life of his own family.

"It's a vision that's changed lives across this country, including that of a young woman who went to work for an organization called Public Allies to prepare young people for public service careers - an organization initially funded by the Bush administration," Obama said. "Here experience there inspired her to devote her own life to serving others, and that young woman happens to be my wife, Michelle Obama."

Obama stressed the community service theme during last year's presidential campaign. He signed a measure in April designed to strengthen national community service efforts by boosting federal funding for thousands of volunteers in fields ranging from clean energy to health care and education.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. LacrosseMom

    Volunteers are the heart of America! We need everyone of us, to help the poor, the needy, the children, the elderly, the sick.

    Without volunteers America would be a very sad place!

    Thank YOU, President George H.W. Bush & President Barack Obama for encouraging us to give of our time and talents!

    GOD BLESS!

    October 16, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  2. Oy Vey

    It's always a pleasure to see these two Presidents laughing with each other.

    This isn't the first time we've seen President Herbert Walker Bush showing his genuine gentlemanly nature.

    Wilson ... look at these two guys here and yell ... you lie ... buckets of bucks.

    October 16, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  3. Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the G O P has Got To Go...

    Oh my god – Obama has converted Bush Sr into a socialist – asking people to volunteer for their country. This is unbelievable Is Bush senior a communist too? Who knew?

    October 16, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  4. m smith

    The president has such class. He is trying and I feel better for it. The economy is improving and I think it will continue. What will people complain about then?

    October 16, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. bill

    Former President George H. W. Bush has class and empathy/hopes for this country that his two spoiled, self-centered sons cannot even comprehend.

    He has class, while the two of them have nothing.

    October 16, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    "Anyone here thinks that our government always has the solutions, will be the first to tell you that you'll be sorely disappointed." Finally the truth from Obama! More government is NOT THE SOLUTION! SS, SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, WIC, CHIP, PO, Welfare, and etc... are ALL IN THE RED! The Government need to fix these programs first.

    October 16, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  7. Dennis in AZ

    There's something predictable about the two worst president's in terms of screwing up the national economy, getting together to ask Americans to work for free. Is it something we should be getting used to in lieu of secure borders and enforcement of immigration policy? Maybe what they're trying to tell the work force is–"If you want to compete with illegal aliens, you're going to have to work for free?"
    I'm all for altruism, but I'm afraid I can no longer afford to take the government at it's word. I've paid my dues and the proverbial silver lining has a remarkable brown stain going right down the center. My disgust for this disingenuous pandering to solicit free labor at the behest of an incompetent government is nearly overwhelming. My advice? Wear a hat–and when they tell you it's raining?

    October 16, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  8. LaShawn

    This is great! I wish there were more classy republicans like George Bush SR. The party has allowed it's fringe to become it's mainstream. This is why the Republican Party will die off if it does'nt change.

    October 16, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  9. Bob in Pa

    Good point BO "the government can only do so much with the challenges facing Americans"
    Keep the goverment lean ! Quit spending so much money !.

    October 16, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  10. American

    This is what it should be like all of the time – people of different parties working together to promote solutions to build the best America that we can be. At least some grown-ups are in charge.

    October 16, 2009 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  11. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    That is pretty good, is pretty nice to see both of them in the campaign trail.

    Volunteerism is an option, not an obligation. I'm sure many communitites and servive activists around the country will like to see it more but there is. Is not like service members or community organizers don't have a plan or don't try, some people do in fact try and there are kids and teenagers out there who are fully committed to such a goal. It all depends on one's psyche and I wished I was one of those, i wish I had the organizational and socially skills necessary to make an impact on my community but is more complicated than that. Is not as easy as it sounds and it all depends on one's mental state. Is easy to do it and many wonderful kids do in fact do it but many others don't as well.

    Hopefully this can make an impact on kids to show good judgment on many social, ethic and sensitive issues regarding our communities. For me? Well, is not my obligation to question whether I'm doing the right thing, is my obligation to make sure people understand that urban areas are more affected than what we realize about. After all, volunterring is good and can be of a benefit but not doing it is another thing.

    There's many teenagers or even adults who are more smarter than me, thank you very much.

    Is good and is nice seeing the both of them, is pretty clever for both members to work such an important and fortunate goal.

    October 16, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  12. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Air Force One just passed over my house and it was the most exciting thing my Grandson and I had seen so I can imagine how those students at Texas A&M had to feel in the presence of President Obama and Bush 41. What a lifetime experience they had.

    October 16, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  13. at what point are organizations asking for too much?

    donate to your church

    volunteer at school

    volunteer at your kid's rec center

    charities

    work related functions

    neighborhood organizations

    swim team

    EVERY GROUP IS EXPECTING OUR TIME, MONEY

    what a needy society this has evolved into

    October 17, 2009 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  14. Kim

    If it wasn't for the lobbists both sides could be civil.

    October 17, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |