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

Obama, Bush turn bipartisan focus to volunteerism

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/16/art.ghwb.obama.gi.jpg caption="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. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Obama, keep Public/Community Service alive!

    October 16, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Hugo

    I volunteer daily to fight with words for America's Freedom from an oversized, overgrown, wasteful and ineffective Federal Government.

    States Rights
    Term Limits
    Campaign funding reform
    Tort Law Reform

    October 16, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Michelle

    Good for them! That is what I am talking about!

    October 16, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. Another Home is Forclosed on Every 7.5 Seconds

    I am so sick of the negative spin you neo-con-right-wing-nut-jobs have to put on everything this President does! Instead of seeing this as a good thing, instead of seeing a President and a past President from the opposite party coming together to promote Americans becoming involved to do good things for their country, you idiots HAVE to say something negative. If you hate your President that much, if you hate your fellow Americans THAT much, since remember the majority of your fellow Americans support our President, then PLEASE go somewhere else!

    The majority of people in this country still beilieve in doing good, in helping their fellow Americans. You people are a very, very SMALL minority and the rest of us are committed to making sure that you NEVER have power over the direction this country goes in again!

    October 16, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. Hugo

    Dominican mama 4 Obama October 16th, 2009 10:42 am ET

    Obama is not be underestimated. He's proven that over and over again. He's young, fit, intelligent and methodical. The experience that he lacks he will obtain just like any other previous President, except that he'll do it faster. Time and circumstances are ensuring that. Washington bureacracy can bring oil to a grinding halt. Combine that with the unwillingness of the Republicans to support the President and progress can come slowly, but it will come.
    Proven what, that he can read a teleprompter? Inexperience that he will glean at the cost of the US dollar and in US servicemen's lives? Oil to a grinding halt, with what, more hot air? You need to quit eating clay cookies and drinking so much Kool-aide!

    October 16, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. David

    Globalist Bush, meet globalist Obama!

    October 16, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. Daniel

    Wow, I'm really disgusted by some of the comments here. Encouraging volunteerism and community involvement is something we should ALL be doing regardless of political affiliation. Those of you who are critical of this should be ashamed of yourselves.

    October 16, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    Before you go posting about how AmeriCorps is like ACORN, do a little research on both organizations.

    And while you're at it, check out this factoid: The same Republicans who want to immediately cut funding to ACORN because a couple of their employees engaged in illegal activities – these very same Republicans want to keep a hands-off approach when it comes to Haliburton and companies like them that write into their contracts that if you get raped by their personnel while working for them, you can't sue.

    How's that for good values? Typical Republican money trumps everything!

    October 16, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. vic nashville , Tn

    I don’t think future leaders from GOP will participate

    October 16, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Nate, Oly WA

    Democrats = WE
    Republicans = ME

    October 16, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |

    What the hell is President Bush doing? He has too much class to be in the same room with b-ditty. Obama only cares about obama. The proof is that obama gave the least to charity out of anyone who ran for president. He is far more willin to spend my money for this (taxes) then his money to help others. Obama is the biggest phony i have ever seen. He should change his theme from "yes we can" to yes you can".

    October 16, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. Jeff

    Good to see the parties working together (though whether or not volunteering is a good thing shouldn't be a partisan issue).

    Pardon my playing devils advocate, but do laws need to be made and all that for volunteering? Volunteering is doing something you don't have to do, on your own motivations. The existance of legislation about it just makes me wonder.

    October 16, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Enough Already!!!!

    @Where is the real story? October 16th, 2009 12:48 pm ET
    The real story is you a Moron sane as Rush,Sean and Beck
    Go do some Push Ups!!!

    October 16, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. DAR


    Fellow from Chicago posted:

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

    What is he implying in his post? Does he hope that President Obama would die in a skydiving accident. He failed to address the POTUS in the proper manner. I am deeply concerned about his posting and for your failure to treat this as a red flag.

    October 16, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. Ron

    Mr. President: quit going all over hell's half acre and stay at home and do your job.

    October 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. What???

    Joshua College Station Texas October 16th, 2009 12:56 pm ET

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


    Its nice to know there are Texans that are willing to at least welcome our President. You do your state proud!

    October 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Lando

    Kudos to both Presidents...
    Long live...community volunteers...

    October 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. mjm

    Community service, huh?

    Isn't that what people in Hollywood do after they get busted?

    Why is it that Democrats always want you to come over and paint their fence for free? How about creating some real jobs?

    Volunteer = cheap labor.

    And Obama, the government CANNOT rebuild the economy by spending 1-2 trillion.

    October 16, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. 8 years 4 sure

    Fellow from Chicago...
    I've got a better idea...why don't you go skydiving in President Obama's place? Now there is real hope!!!

    October 16, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. Dave

    This is what is so wrong with our country. President's Obama & Bush are doing something very worthwhile in promoting volunteerism and most of the posts on this article are hate-bashing one side or the other.

    Get a clue and STOP the hate speech

    October 16, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. susan

    Perfect Pair of Liars !

    Bush: READ MY LIPS! No more tax!

    Obma: Change, I promised!


    October 16, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. James_MO

    Volunteering to better America is now a bad thing? The right has really gone off the rails now. Even an Old School GOPer can see that.

    October 16, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. tallis

    This is what you call great people,great leaders.Mr Bush and Mr Obama together for a great cause,all those pundits should take note and learn to put aside ideology and see country first.

    October 16, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. mike

    Question to the geniuses bashing Obama on this: if he wasn't involved and it was just Bush41 in College Station would you still be piling on about ACORN, etc? I really really want to be nice to repubs because I do understand the fiscal and some other of their concerns but every time I read these forums every comment from the right is just idiotic name calling. Not that dems are immune from the same brainfarts. Oh well, the idiocy that is today's politics goes on.

    October 16, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. Tracy In LA

    Doc In Virginia. Well said, and why I have so much resect for the men and women in the military..

    October 16, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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