October 16th, 2009
12:24 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama, Bush turn bipartisan focus to volunteerism

President Barack Obama will attend a community service forum hosted by former President George H.W. Bush  .
President Barack Obama will attend a community service forum hosted by former President George H.W. Bush .

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

The two leaders will meet 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 latched onto the 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.


The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, renamed to honor the late senator's sponsorship of the measure, will more than triple the number of positions in the AmeriCorps program, from 75,000 to 250,000, by 2017.

"Our government can help to rebuild our economy ... (but) we need Americans willing to mentor our eager young children, or care for the sick, or ease the strains of deployment on our military families," Obama said when signing the bill into law.

"All that's required on your part is a willingness to make a difference. And that is, after all, the beauty of service. Anybody can do it."

The law created four new national service corps and launched several other initiatives, including, among other things, a "Summer of Service" program to spur greater community outreach by middle- and high-school students. Older Americans were encouraged to volunteer more through the creation of a "Silver Scholars" program, under which individuals 55 and older who perform 350 hours of service receive a $1,000 award.

The law increased the existing AmeriCorps educational stipend offered to volunteers to $5,350 - the same amount as the maximum Pell college grant.

Some critics have contended the measure, expected to cost roughly $6 billion over the next five years, is fiscally irresponsible in light of the
current economic downturn. They also argue that the concept of volunteerism is undermined by providing financial compensation for community service.

Points of Light Institute CEO Michelle Nunn, however, praised the legislation for encouraging people to "volunteer their time and talents to
positively impact the nation's largest problems."

–CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report


Filed under: George H.W. Bush • President Obama
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. A 50-year Democrat no more. Now an independent with brains.

    That explains it. He's an Aggie. Wow! I wonder who ties his shoe strings.

    October 16, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Loose

    More tax money to acorn type orgs. real wise.

    October 16, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. twitwits are the new nitwits

    Poor Bush,his son,George, must have gotten the stupid gene from his mama.

    October 16, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Erasmus

    Two men with true leadership abilities putting aside their differences in order to do something good for this country and its citizens, what an outrageous concept. Are you getting this lesson Congress, RNC, DNC and demagogues of all stripes? Country before party. Country before ideology.

    October 16, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Duh

    creating positions for unqualified people and pouring money out to community organizers, sounds like a recipe for corruption, bribery and theft. Time has already proven these facts before.

    October 16, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. Casey

    Very Respectful. A Republican and Democrat coming together to work on volunteerism. We need more non-partisan people in Washington to work together more than hearing Republicans bickering about Obama's issues that would lead the country into the wrong direction.

    October 16, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Doc in Virginia

    I met the elder Bush at the commissioning of the USS GHW Bush CVN-77 in Norfolk in January. Even though I didnt vote for him the two times he ran for office I still served under him in the 1st Gulf War. He was my CinC, and that was that. Service means service, and not these whiners like that moronic army officer who hired Orley Taitz as her lawyer because she refuses to go to Iraq as she claims Obama is a 'foreign usurper.' When youre in the armed forces, politics come second to Country. Always. My opinion of the GOP, Bush in particular, had no bearing on carrying out my duties and my country was at war.
    I hope that all in the armed forces feel that way. Politics is left for civilians. We vote, but we also fight.
    When I got to shake hands with 41, I related I was a naval veteran who served under him in the Gulf. He was delighted and thanked me for my service, and I showed him the respect he was due. There needs to be more of that. And more from some of these civilians who dont go in harm's way to the commander in chief.

    October 16, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Daniel Schlafer

    President George HW Bush may have had a slight problem with the "vision thing " and the offspring who became the 43rd President , but he has worked very hard to raise money for disaster relief and now volunteerism . I don't even mind if he uses the term . " a thousand points of light " , because I know he won't sneer his face like his off spring , 43rd .

    October 16, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. fellow from chicago

    Mr. President, take Obama skydiving with you on your next birthday. We then can only hope.

    October 16, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. Aunt Bea and Opie

    See,we told everyone that only eighty percent of Republicans were selfish morons or born in Louisana.Good job former President Bush.

    October 16, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Where is the real story?

    Sorry, but if you follow real media and real reporting, you'll find this "volunteeism" push is simply Barry's latest venture in rewarding cronies and pushing a partisan, ideological agenda not shared by most Americans. Look into the Planned Parenthood connections just for starters.

    "...something good for this country and its citizens' indeed." Put done the bong Erasmus.

    October 16, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Piper

    I am really saddened by the criticism of the AmeriCorps program. I served in AmeriCorps after my time in the Army had ended. Yes, I was compensated for my time in AmeriCorps (it is not very much at all considering the amount of work that you put in to it), but I was also compensated for my time in the Army. The compensation is a thank you (albeit a small one) for what is often very thank-less and demanding service.

    The compensation enables working mothers and others who have the desire but maybe not the resources to help out in their communities. To eliminate that compensation would only hurt the very communities that these individuals and programs help.

    I support the AmeriCorp members just like I support the troops overseas. And I appreciate this bipartisan support for their efforts as well.

    October 16, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. shoegazer

    Look in one of Bushs'ears,you'll see a"Point of Light"....

    October 16, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. DJ

    Rush Limbaugh Faux News-Nuts are going to chime in about how they hate community activism and volunteerism.

    October 16, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. Kate in San Diego

    Isn't interesting these dimwit republicans think this is something bad – when it does not differ in any way from GHWB's "One Thousand Points of Light." Why are we being so hateful to each other? And here I am doing it too – calling them dimwits. WE ALL NEED TO STOP THIS ASAP! THAT INCLUDES ME! I HEREBY PLEDGE NOT TO DO ANY MORE NAME CALLING! I don't want to encourage this culture of selfishness we seem to be developing in this country. What ever happened to Love thy Neighbor as Thyself?

    October 16, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. Joshua College Station Texas

    Welcome President Obama! We are so happy to have you!

    October 16, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Al, CA

    Do Obama and Bush the older together try to save GOP from becoming a marginal extremist party?

    October 16, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. Buyers Remorse

    They have a lot in common, both will be one term presidents

    October 16, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    What can I say, I am proud of both President Bush 41 and our new President Obama.....I just wish it could be at a much BETTER school.

    Hook Um!!!! Go Longhorns Class of 79

    October 16, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Get over it

    Amazing how many on the right seem to despise anything that can help those less fortunate. Interesting. Well, you see one of the great Republican leaders supports this too. Keep the selfishness and cruelty to yourself today.

    October 16, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Let's here the right wing gripes abut this. A Bush and Obama in the same sentence. What part of fiscal conservatism is that?

    October 16, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Dan, TX

    I hope senior Bush gives a big lecture to this radical guy. I wonder if he takes a lesson from him. He needs to be on alert. Today again we have lost soldiers in Afghanistan and this president is delaying his decision. Hillary is blaming previous administration while they are in power for the last 9-10 months. We have raw hands without experience. Thius we are now in big problems all sides.

    October 16, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Death Assurance Companies

    We love his Library.His son,George has Library also,its called the Dallas Zoo.hahaha

    October 16, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. An Aggie

    Welcome Mr. President.
    WHOOP!!

    October 16, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. call me crazy

    I think this is an honorable attempt at bipartisanship, but the right will not go along with anything Obama related. They have gone off the deep end folks.

    October 16, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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