George HW Bush visits White House

WASHINGTON: A dual interest in public service has brought President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush together at the White House for a joint salute to volunteerism in America.

The first President Bush — “41,” he often calls himself — came for a visit Monday to attend a ceremony Obama was holding to recognize the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award. Created by Bush more than two decades ago to honor volunteer service, the award’s name comes from the description in his 1989 inaugural address of Americans serving each other as “a thousand points of light.”

“It’s now a much more common thing in our country, I think, to hear about and for young people to get involved in community service,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “And I think the president believes that President Bush 41 deserves a large portion of credit for that.”

Bush’s wife, Barbara, the former first lady; their son Neil, and other relatives are expected to attend; son and former President George W. Bush is not. Also scheduled to attend is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light organization and a possible Democratic Senate candidate from Georgia. She’s the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and the Bushes had lunch in the Red Room before the ceremony.

During the event, Obama was to announce creation of a federal task force to come up with new ways for the public and private sectors to collaborate to support national service as a means of tackling national priorities, the White House said.

In the past year, the Corporation for National and Community Service, sponsor of the AmeriCorps national service program, launched partnerships with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Education Department. The 1,600-member FEMA Corps has the sole mission of responding to disasters. School Turnaround AmeriCorps will send 650 volunteers into low-performing schools this fall to help improve academic achievement, attendance, high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness.

Both presidents share a commitment to volunteerism and service.

Bush, 89, established the Daily Point of Light Award in 1990 while in office. More than 1,000 of the awards were distributed between 1989 and 1993, Bush’s single term as the nation’s 41st president. Through its offices around the country and relationships with nonprofit groups and corporations, the Points of Light organization encourages millions of people to volunteer and recognizes those it says are making a difference.