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. Meh

    Dawn, sweetie, if you are using VA benefits, you are using SOCIALIST (by your standards) healthcare. We, the taxpayers, are paying for your healthcare.
    Get a clue.

    October 16, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. TangledThorns

    Heh, Obama is learning how to be a one termer too ūüôā

    October 16, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Lucieann

    I think this is a terrific thing......There shouod be this sort of bipartisan get together more often.....somebody please tell Congress!!!

    October 16, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. Nobel (piece of ----) Prize

    Everything really is bigger in Texas...now that Texas just let the biggest liar visit...

    October 16, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Objective Thinking

    Casey (October 16th, 2009 12:41 pm ET) said:

    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.


    So you say we need more non-partisan people, and yet you only call out Republicans. Hypocrite.

    October 16, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
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